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Stepping Up: D.C. Wards 7 and 8 Teens to Teach Prevention of HIV, Obesity in Summer Youth Program

Mayor’s Summer Job Program, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Give 40 in District Opportunity to Help Community Prevent HIV/AIDS

Washington, D.C. (Vocus)-- The Summit Health Institute for Research and Education (SHIRE), Inc., is reaching out to 40 young men and women in D.C. Wards 7 and 8, ages 15-20 to help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and childhood obesity. The five-month paid program works in partnership with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s 2009 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and is funded with a $99,797 grant by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst).

Dr. Pierre Vigilance said of the program, “HIV and obesity are both preventable, and they pose a major threat to the public's health. Today's grant will educate a group of District youth so they can make healthy choices, teach others what they have learned, and pass on these valuable life skills and tools to their families, friends, and neighbors.”

According to the District’s HIV/AIDS office, more than 15,000 D.C. residents over the age of 12 are infected with HIV, exceeding epidemic thresholds. The city also has a childhood obesity epidemic, ranking last in the nation with 25 percent of young men and women ages 10 to 17 either overweight or obese.

“We have HIV infection and childhood obesity rates that should alarm us into action,” said Ruth T. Perot, Executive Director and CEO of the SHIRE. “HIV does not ask if you are young or old. It spreads and kills without discretion. We are appreciative for CareFirst’s support and encouraged by the promise this program offers for Ward 7 and 8 teens.”

Participants in the program will receive training in HIV/AIDS, nutrition and health education, advocacy, and career guidance. Upon successful completion of the education part of the program, SHIRE teen health educators take their knowledge and peer influence to the stage, both in community health workshops and a live theatre production designed for 12-19 year olds living in Wards 7 and 8.

“We are fighting two killers with this grant, in HIV and obesity,” said Chet Burrell, CareFirst President and CEO. “CareFirst’s partnership with the Summit Health Institute’s summer education program is a great complement to the many programs we support to improve the overall health of District residents.”

Recruitment for the HIV/AIDS Teen Health Educators Program is being coordinated with community based organizations, including: Ward 8 ANC leaders, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Collaborative, Howard University, Maya Angelou School in Ward 7, and the DC Summer Youth Employment Job Fair.

The Summit Health Institute for Research and Education, Inc. (SHIRE) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the promotion of health and wellness for all people. SHIRE works to eradicate health disparities and aid vulnerable populations in attaining optimal health. Communities, government agencies, corporations, and foundations look to SHIRE as an effective and trusted resource to identify inequities, propose solutions, and galvanize grassroots groups to address access to health care and quality of care issues among the underserved, particularly communities of color.

In its 72nd year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to nearly 3.4 million individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. Through its CareFirst Commitment initiative and other public mission activities, CareFirst supports efforts to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas.

To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit our Web site at:

*Source: National Center for Health Statistics
** District of Columbia HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Report 2008


S:Public Policy & Community AffairsMEDIA RELATIONSMRReleases 2009 DraftsMaySHIRE Release 5-11-09.doc

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