UnitedHealthcare and 4-H Youth Development Program at Prairie View A&M University Expand “Eat4-Health” Partnership

by LP Green, II

UnitedHealthcare and the 4-H Youth Development Program at Prairie View A&M University are expanding a successful partnership called Eat4-Health that helps tackle obesity by promoting healthy eating and an active lifestyle among youth and families.

UnitedHealthcare is providing Prairie View A&M University’s Cooperative Extension Program, which administers 4-H programs in Texas, a $40,000 grant to support youth healthy-living programs. A portion of the grant is being used to purchase pedal-powered blender bikes that will be used for fun, energetic events where young people can create their own healthy smoothies through exercise. The specially made stationary bikes are equipped with a blender mechanism that makes smoothies when pedaled.

The partnership expansion was announced at the annual Ralph Cooper’s Stars of the Future Basketball Tournament that took place at Cesar Chavez High School in Houston. During the tournament, 4-Hers, community leaders and UnitedHealthcare’s mascot Dr. Health E. Hound encouraged participants to create their own healthy snack in return for a little “sweat equity.”

At the basketball tournament, 4-H youth trained through the “Eat4-Health” program also distributed healthy smoothie recipes and helped hundreds of participating youth and families make their own healthy smoothies to burn calories and promote health.

Prior to the tournament, Prairie View A&M University’s 4-H Youth Development Program conducted an “Eat4-Health” youth health ambassador training session with captains and co-captains from each of the 14 participating basketball tournament teams. These newly trained youth health ambassadors will now lead workshops for their teammates on healthy living practices including tips for making healthy smoothies and staying active.

The grant, along with the smoothie bikes, will be used to support community events and programs in which youth and families can learn about easy ways to promote healthy lifestyles. Recipe cards, nutrition and physical activity information, and other resources will be distributed as part of the program. The goal is to encourage young people and their families to eat more nutritious foods and exercise regularly.

Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program and 4-H are working together to implement the grant, in collaboration with and in support of U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition education programs. A plan has been developed to provide innovative, hands-on learning to target underserved communities in the state, led by 4-H and Extension educators, volunteers and teen leaders to encourage youth and community participation.

“The 4-H Program at Prairie View A&M University is pleased to continue working with UnitedHealthcare to create hands-on opportunities to promote active, healthy lifestyles among Texas youth,” said Dr. Alton B. Johnson, Dean and Director of Land Grant Programs in the College of Agriculture and Human Science. “The new pedal-powered bikes give our 4-H youth health ambassadors a fun new tool to help demonstrate easy ways to stay active and eat healthy.”

UnitedHealthcare employees will help organize and host many of the Eat4-Health events and assist in the implementation of projects that lead to positive, sustainable change at the community and individual level. The company has already provided Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program $100,000 to support the Eat4-Health program since 2011.

“UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to expand the Eat4-Health partnership in Texas, which is helping reach so many young people through innovative healthy living programs and educational events,” said Don Langer, President, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas. “These pedal-powered smoothie bikes are great ways to empower young people to make healthy, nutritious food choices and stay active.”

UnitedHealthcare is providing $520,000 to National 4-H Council to support youth healthy-living programs. In addition to Texas, other state 4-H programs receiving grants include Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Eat4-Health, which began in 2011, has already reached more than 210,000 young people and families across nine states through a positive campaign that has trained thousands of 4-H teen youth health ambassadors to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities.

According to America’s Health Rankings, an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. Texas ranks 32nd in obesity with nearly 30 percent of adults and more than 15 percent of youth estimated to be obese. Obesity continues to be at epidemic levels and is one of the fastest-growing health challenges confronting the nation.

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