Home > Addressing the childhood obesity epidemic among minority children, starting with school lunches – Highmark’s efforts to change the way our children eat

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Addressing the childhood obesity epidemic among minority children, starting with school lunches – Highmark’s efforts to change the way our children eat
Each April, Highmark recognizes National Minority Health Month in an effort to inform, educate and encourage our workplace, our business and our community about the health and well-being of minorities.
The Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2011 National Minority Health campaign is “Bring It or Buy It - Make Lunch Healthy, Green and Good! In Schools, even Food Can Teach Us a Lesson.” In response to the national epidemic of childhood obesity, Highmark, along with the U.S. government, recognize the need to address this problem, which affects all children, especially minority children.
Did you know that almost 12.5 million children are obese in the United States? For the first time in our history, this generation of American children may be sicker and die younger than the generation before them. Those are our children and our grandchildren.
Did you know that minority children are more likely to be overweight? Hispanic boys and African American girls have the highest rates of obesity amongst all other population groups. In fact, African Americans who are born in the year 2000 or after face a two in five risk for diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And heart disease and stroke have become the first and third-leading causes of death among the African American population.
How the National School Lunch Program and Highmark are making a difference
Children spend a majority of their day at school. Some children eat breakfast, lunch and have after school snacks at school. According to the Office of Minority Health, a great number of minority children participate in the school lunch program, and some school districts have designed ways to extend the food service during the summer to guarantee that lower income children have access to at least one full meal per day.
The National School Lunch Program is making strides to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day. School lunches must meet the applicable nutritional guidelines which include that no more than 30 percent of an individual's calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. Regulations also establish a standard for school lunches to provide one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories. Find out what your child is eating at school. Knowing what your child is being served at school meals could also a great teachable moment, and provide an opportunity to educate you and your child about healthy eating. 
Highmark proudly supports initiatives that not only address nutrition, but all aspects of being a healthy child and is helping to lead the way in addressing childhood obesity. Highmark recently collaborated with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to provide additional insurance benefits for children with at-risk health issues related to obesity. Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a partnership between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Children ages 3 to 18 with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over the 85th percentile for their age and are considered overweight, can receive a minimum of four follow-up visits with their primary care provider (or other health care professional), along with four visits with a registered dietitian through a Highmark preventive health benefit plan. More than 500,000 children now have access to this important care through Highmark.
Since 2004, the Highmark Foundation has provided more than $1.6 million to support programs that increase access to diabetes care and services for minorities and underserved individuals throughout Pennsylvania. In addition, Highmark invested $100 million into the Highmark Foundation to fund Highmark Healthy High 5, which is committed to improving the health of children and adolescents by providing them with tools and practices for healthy behavior. Highmark Healthy High 5 programs include a focus on proper nutrition and appropriate physical activity.
Highmark provides grants directly to schools and community sites so they can administer programs such as LearntobeHealthy, KidShape and the Highmark Healthy High 5 Health eTools for Schools.
Parents – here are some tips to help keep your child healthy:
·         Set realistic goals to get started on a healthier lifestyle. Make healthy eating a family activity.
·         Do not insist that your child eats everything on his/her plate.
·         Include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains in your child’s daily meals.
·         Choose lean meats, low fat milk and cheese when possible.
·         Limit snacks to one or two daily. Encourage calorie-free beverages with each snack.
·         Make sure your child gets at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most days.
·         Reduce screen time with TV, computers and video games to not more than 2 hours daily.
Learn more about Highmark’s efforts to keeping kids healthy at www.highmarkhealthyhigh5.org.
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