2010 Diversity Annual Report
Empowered: Aetna-sponsored program scores big, sets 2,000 children on healthier path

Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which elevates risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Better diet and exercise are keys to stopping the trend – but how do we change kids’ habits for good?

Students participating in Three Point Play program
“We understand the impact of childhood obesity, and this program is aimed squarely at that issue. For schools, it’s an easy-to-administer, no-cost program that gets results.”

Jeff Bernhard, Head of the Public & Labor segment for the Aetna’s West Region, Aetna

One promising answer is to integrate healthy activities where children spend much of their waking hours: their schools. The Three Point Play program – a collaborative effort of Aetna, the Aetna Foundation, Action for Healthy Kids and local non-profit organizations – is doing exactly that.

Based on a clinically validated curriculum to improve the fitness of children in K-12 public schools, the 20-week program is tailored for ethnic minorities in low-income urban areas, who are at greatest risk for cardiovascular disease. Three Point Play includes training for physical education teachers and other school staff, instruction methods and teaching materials. It focuses on encouraging physical activity among students, enhancing nutrition awareness, and engaging students and their families in adopting healthy lifestyles. The program also includes incentives and prizes for program participants.

The first two school districts to take part in the program were in Texas, comprising more than 2,000 participating students in six schools. Program results were promising: participants achieved a decrease in body mass index (BMI) of 0.2 to 0.4 points. This is significant because children in this age group are predicted to gain 0.5 to 1.0 BMI points per year, with higher gains predicted for ethnic minorities. Beyond their BMI improvements, children also made gains in their cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility.

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