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Press Release

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Independence Blue Cross Team Up to Address Childhood Obesity

375,000 students to benefit from program benefitting kids in five-county region

Philadelphia, PA - January 9, 2009 - An inherent piece of the American dream — that children have more opportunities and a better life than their parents — is seriously at risk as the incidence of obesity among children continues to rise, and the current generation of children could become the first in this country’s history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

To address this growing epidemic, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is now using Health eTools for Schools®, an award-winning web tool that helps school nurses, teachers, administrators, and parents support the reduction of student obesity by encouraging young people to adopt healthy lifestyles. The program is being provided at no cost through the Archdiocese’s health insurer, Independence Blue Cross, which launched the program last year to all public schools in the five-county Philadelphia region.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia currently serves 80,000 students in 182 elementary schools, 20 high schools, and five schools of special education, located throughout Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. The addition of the Archdiocesan schools to the Health eTools program brings the total number of students in the region who will benefit from Health eTools for Schools to nearly 375,000. This includes students in suburban school districts such as North Penn in Montgomery County, Pennsbury in Bucks County, and William Penn in Delaware County.

“In our classrooms, we teach our students that the gift of life and good health is a blessing,” said Dr. Richard McCarron, Secretary for Catholic Education for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “By working with Independence Blue Cross and the Health eTools for Schools program, we can expand this teaching to support our students in maintaining a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise.”

“School is the ideal environment to promote good health because of the many diverse opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy habits, such as eating right and exercising,” said Joseph A. Frick, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross. “By building on the trusting relationships kids have with their teachers, nurses, and others at school, we’re making a great start at creating a future generation of healthier adults. We’re very pleased that the Archdiocese recognizes this special opportunity and has adopted Health eTools for Schools.”

How the program will help the Archdiocese

Teachers, school nurses, and other education professionals will use Health eTools for Schools through a secure web portal. The program provides electronic health records, including health screenings such as body mass index, vision, and hearing that will help Archdiocese school administrators more easily comply with federal and state mandates regarding health and wellness. Physical education teachers at the Archdiocese will use the tool to create customized fitness assessments and tailor interventions to students’ needs and school resources. The tool will also help schools better communicate with parents about the specific fitness levels and needs of their children.

“The Archdiocese strives to provide our students with a holistic education focused on enriching their minds, bodies and souls, and Health eTools for Schools is an innovative way to stress the importance of being healthy,” said Mary E. Rochford, superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “Health eTools for Schools will integrate perfectly with our new wellness campaign by allowing our educators to access health information quickly, create comprehensive wellness plans, and apply best practices in keeping our students healthy. The program includes more than 500 lesson plans for all grade levels that teach physical education and nutrition across our curriculum, so healthy living can be incorporated into all of our learning environments, not just the gym and cafeteria.”

The IBC subsidy for Health eTools for Schools is being made through a licensing agreement with InnerLink, Inc., which developed the tool for the Highmark Foundation, a charitable organization and affiliate of Highmark Inc. Based in Lancaster, PA, InnerLink, Inc. provides educational resources and cutting-edge technology to help schools comply with wellness policy requirements and encourage better nutrition and physical activity for children.

The childhood obesity epidemic

Research and statistics point to the need for increased attention on obesity and other health related problems plaguing our nation’s youth.

  • Compared with the rest of the nation, Philadelphia students have a greater risk of being obese and not meeting daily levels of physical activities, according to a 2007 Centers for Disease Control survey that evaluates youth risk behaviors.
  • A study of Philadelphia elementary schools students found that overweight children were absent from school more often than normal-weight children: 12 days for overweight children compared to 10 days for average-weight children over the course of the school year. Obesity, August 2007
  • More than 17 percent of people between age two and 19 are overweight or obese. Since the mid-1970s, the number of overweight and obese children has tripled, reports the U.S. Surgeon General.

About the Archidiocese of Philadelphia

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is made up of almost 1.5 million Catholics, with 270 parishes within the five-county area. There are 182 parish and regional elementary schools, 20 high schools, and five schools of special education, serving 80,000 students. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently celebrated its bicentennial: 1808 to 2008.

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is the leading health insurer in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, IBC and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.4 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered quality health care products and services tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, groups, and providers.

About InnerLink, Inc.

Lancaster, PA-based InnerLink, Inc. founded in 2001, provides a wide range of health and safety technology solutions for schools, communities, and health care professionals across the United States. InnerLink’s products include web-based wellness curriculum for the education market; portal technology that allows school districts to manage system-wide Coordinated School Health programs, policies and student health records; online personal electronic health records that allow users to manage their own health information and carry it with them 24/7; and portal solutions for organizations and communities to manage disaster preparedness planning, response, and recovery. For more information, visit www.TheInnerLink.com.

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