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Philadelphia School District and Independence Blue Cross Partner to Improve Student Wellness and Reduce Childhood Obesity
Date:1/13/2009

Online tool will help schools address student health issues, comply with federal and state health requirements

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- In a progressive move to help Philadelphia students eat healthier, get more exercise, control their weight, and be more health conscious, the school district of Philadelphia announced it is implementing the award-winning Health eTools for Schools(R) web-based program. The program is being provided to schools at no cost through the district's health insurer, Independence Blue Cross.

With the addition of approximately 161,000 students from 270 schools in the Philadelphia school district, nearly 375,000 students from 668 schools in the five-county region will be enrolled in Health eTools for Schools. Independence Blue Cross (IBC) launched the program to public, private, parochial, and charter schools throughout the region last spring to help school nurses, teachers, administrators, and parents reduce student obesity and encourage young people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Since then, schools throughout the region have used the program to more effectively monitor student's BMI, teach children how to make good food choices, promote exercise, and raise awareness among students about the importance of healthy living.

"The health and safety of our district's students are paramount to us and we are excited to partner with Independence Blue Cross on this dynamic new wellness tool," said Bettyann Creighton, director, Health, Safety and Physical Education for the Philadelphia school district. "By helping kids become healthier, we not only create more productive learners today, but also help children grow into adults with fewer health risks. Health eTools will also support the promotion and implementation of the School District of Philadelphia Wellness Policy, adopted in September of 2006. The Wellness Policy reinforces the District's commitment to the health of school communities so that students are fit, healthy, and ready to learn."

"Our schools are the ideal place to teach children how to be healthy because every day there are so many different opportunities to learn about and practice healthy behaviors, from the classroom to the cafeteria to the gym and playground and beyond," said Joseph A. Frick, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross. "One of the most important things we can do for our children is teach them how to be responsible for their own good health. We're pleased that the school district is taking advantage of this innovative tool and we're excited about the positive step they are taking to keep our city's children healthy."

HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS

Health eTools for Schools is a secure tool accessed through a web portal that can improve students' food choices, provide quality physical activities, and allow school administrators to more easily comply with federal and state mandates for measuring body mass index and improving student wellness.

One way the Philadelphia school district plans to use the tool is to help physical education teachers create customized fitness assessments that measure the students' endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular ability in a variety of activities selected by each school. Teachers will gather this information quickly and simply through a hand-held computer that is uploaded to online student health records. The information will be used by teachers to create programs and activities that will help students improve their physical fitness and overall wellness.

"What's unique about this tool is that it lets our physical education teachers create customized assessments that reflect their school's particular resources and environment," continued Creighton. "The tool also will provide a consistent record of a student's fitness ability and improvement throughout his or her school years, and allow us to provide better information to parents about their children's overall fitness."

The IBC subsidy for Health eTools for Schools is being made through a licensing agreement with InnerLink, Inc., which developed the web 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 enable better nutrition and physical activity for children.

OBESITY: A SERIOUS HEALTH EPIDEMIC

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

  • Currently, about 17 percent of American children and teens are overweight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Compared with their thinner peers, overweight children may be more likely to develop depression and anxiety symptoms by the time they reach middle school. Journal of Pediatrics, November 2007
  • Between 1970 and 2004, the number of overweight children ages 6 to 11 almost tripled. JAMA, 2006
  • 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

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. IBC and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.4 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. For more information, visit our website at www.ibx.com.

About the School District of Philadelphia

The School District of Philadelphia is the nation's eighth largest public school district, with approximately 161,000 students in grades K through 12 in more than 270 schools. Under the leadership of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, Ed.D, the School District will implement five important core beliefs:

1. Children come first.

2. Parents are our partners.

3. Victory is in the classroom and facilitated by a strong instructional leader.

4. Leadership and accountability are the keys to success.

5. It takes the engagement of the entire community to ensure the success of its public schools.

The School District of Philadelphia will be undertaking a tremendous challenge: to create a strategic plan to achieve excellence, equity and accountability for everyone within the District with the ultimate goal of providing every District student with a high-quality, 21st century-ready, education.

About InnerLink, Inc.

Lancaster, PA-based InnerLink, Inc. founded in 2001, provides a wide range of health and wellness 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. For more information, visit: www.TheInnerLink.com.


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SOURCE Independence Blue Cross
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