Hempstead, Texas – Texas 4-H and UnitedHealthcare joined together on August 17 to launch a new partnership – Youth Voice: Youth Choice – a program to help young people in the state improve their health and well-being through exercise, proper nutrition and attention to personal safety. 4-H programs in Texas are conducted through the Cooperative Extension Program (CEP) at Prairie View A&M University and Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
Nearly 200 parents and kids joined Texas 4-H leaders for a daylong Waller County Healthy Lifestyles Family Fun and Fitness Day held at the newly opened Hempstead Recreation Center as UnitedHealthcare presented Texas 4-H with a $65,000 check to mark the beginning of the partnership.
To officially kick-off the partnership, UnitedHealthcare’s Dr. Health E. Hound mascot joined Houston-acclaimed “Strictly Street Salsa” instructor Raul Edwards in leading participating families, community leaders and 4-Hers for a group “Lose It to Salsa” dance exercise, learning fun and easy ways to stay fit.
“Since there is a national focus on healthy lifestyles for young people, this partnership between UnitedHealthcare and Texas 4-H is ideal and gives us the opportunity to work together with parents and youth to promote the benefits of good nutrition and exercise,” said Dr. Carolyn J. Nobles, associate administrator for the Cooperative Extension Program at Prairie View A&M University.
The Waller County Family Fun and Fitness Day, organized by Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension agents, Jernard McCray (4-H), Te’Anna Reed (Family and Consumer Sciences), Kenneth McCullough (Agriculture and Natural Resources) and UnitedHealthcare, included healthy workshops, family physical activities and a healthy lunch with food-preparation tips. UnitedHealthcare provided a certified health educator who answered questions and provided information about health topics such as diabetes, weight control and fitness.
The event focused on the importance of diet and exercise in people’s daily lives and how to apply that knowledge with their families and friends in their communities. It is one of several events targeting underserved communities in Texas with nutrition and wellness messages.
“The partnership with 4-H and UnitedHealthcare is significant because it’s important to bridge the health disparity gap by engaging our target audience in healthy activities that will hopefully result in behavior changes around eating habits and physical activity,” said Dr. Rukeia Draw-Hood, program leader – 4-H, Cooperative Extension Program.
The Texas Department of Agriculture also participated in the event by providing information on Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples’ 3E’s initiative.
“With obesity rates at alarming levels in our country, it is more important than ever that educators, health care professionals and parents work together to emphasize the importance for our children of the 3 E’s of Healthy Living: Education, Exercise and Eating right,” Commissioner Staples said. “Positive lifestyle“
choices are not only beneficial to individuals and future generations, but also to the health of our economy. A healthy population is more productive, more competitive and far less likely to burden our health care resources. I commend Texas 4-H and UnitedHealthcare for bringing this positive message to our youth.
Highlighting the event was a special “Lose It to Salsa” group dance and exercise led by Houston acclaimed salsa dance and exercise instructor Raul Edwards. He taught the families and kids fun and easy ways to stay fit through salsa, merengue and other Latin genres that focus on cardiovascular conditioning, muscle toning and flexibility. Edwards stressed the benefits of the dance-exercise include weight loss,
physical endurance, muscle gain and increased range of motion while learning to dance.
Acting Dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, Prairie View A&M University–Dr. Richard Griffin, Hempstead Mayor Michael Wolfe and Prairie View Mayor Frank Jackson participated in the activities, along with other community leaders who attended the announcement. Attendees were also provided a healthy lunch with tips for good nutrition and wellness.
“Bringing families together through salsa is a fun and easy way to be more fit and healthy,” said Edwards. “This group of kids and their parents had an amazing energy and enthusiasm about this program and the partnership between 4-H and UnitedHealthcare.”
The announcement is part of a national partnership between the National 4-H Council and UnitedHealthcare. Texas 4-H is one of three states receiving funding from UnitedHealthcare for the pilot program. The grant will support events and activities designed to develop and enhance healthy living through afterschool programs, health fairs, camps, clubs, workshops and educational forums. 4-H youth leaders will serve as ambassadors, helping to lead programs that encourage young people to take action for themselves and their families, and to promote healthy living in their communities through nutrition literacy, physical fitness and personal safety.
Texas, along with Mississippi and Florida, were selected for the UnitedHealthcare pilot due to high incidences of obesity among children living in these states’ underserved communities. As part of the partnership, each state 4-H program is developing action plans with targeted goals and outcomes to provide innovative, hands-on learning approaches that target specific community needs. The results will be measured and shared with community leaders, providing other organizations the opportunity to learn and implement similar programs in at-risk communities.
As part of the Youth Voice: Youth Choice partnership, 4-H will sponsor events and activities in targeted counties in Texas. For example, Prairie View Cooperative Extension is planning additional family fun and fitness days in Wharton County and healthy cooking events in Fort Bend and Waller counties. Additional events include nutrition education at youth camps, youth fitness activities at county fairs, student workshops, and other events at community health fairs and schools.
“I am excited about the 4-H and UnitedHealthcare partnership,” said Gail Long, program specialist – 4-H, Cooperative Extension Program and principal investigator for the CEP 4-H partnership. “This partnership will help young people throughout the state of Texas improve their health through diet and fitness.”
The partnership is being managed jointly between the Cooperative Extension Program at Prairie View A&M University (Contact: Gail Long, 936.261.5119) and Texas AgriLife Extension Service (Contact: Courtney Dodd, 979.845.6533) in coordination with UnitedHealthcare–Texas.
“This partnership is an important community service to help ensure children, particularly those in underserved communities, learn skills to enhance their health and well-being,” said Norine Yukon, president of UnitedHealthcare Community & State in Texas. “UnitedHealthcare is partnering with 4-H to help inspire thousands of young people to take action to lead healthier lives.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three children is obese or overweight, putting them on the road to lifelong chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. If left unchecked or untreated, obesity will affect 43 percent of adults by 2018 and will add nearly $344 billion in that year alone to the nation’s annual direct health care costs, accounting for more than 21 percent of health care
spending, according to America’s Health Rankings®. America’s Health Rankings is an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state analysis. It is published jointly by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.
4-H nationally reaches more than 6 million youth each year through clubs, camps and school enrichment programs. UnitedHealthcare Community & State, UnitedHealth Group’s government-sponsored health care program, serves more than 2 million children in 24 states and the District of Columbia in Medicaid and CHIP. 4-H and UnitedHealthcare share connections with many of the same community-based organizations, including school districts.
About Texas 4‐H
More than 65,000 Texas youth are enrolled members of 4-H community clubs in Texas. Another 850,000 Texas youth get involved in 4-H through special educational opportunities at school, in after school programs, or at neighborhood or youth centers. Texas 4-H programs are conducted through the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Cooperative Extension Program at Prairie View A&M University. These youth live in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural communities. 4-H gives them a chance to pursue their own interests – from photography to computers, from building rockets to raising sheep. A list of 4-H projects is available online. They go places – to camp, to state and national conferences. They learn to be leaders and active citizens. In 4-H clubs, they serve as officers and learn to conduct meetings, handle club funds, and facilitate group decision-making. In a growing number of communities, 4-H youth serve as youth representatives in municipal or county government or as members of Teen Courts. They give back to their communities. 4-H members get involved in volunteer projects to protect the environment, mentor younger children and help people who are less fortunate. For more information visit www.Texas4-h.tamu.edu.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.
Alice Ferreira, 203-459-7775
Photos courtesy of Alecea Rush, communications specialist, Cooperative Extension Program