Blue Cross and Blue Shield granting money to fight obesity in Alabama
Published 7:09 pm Monday, January 14, 2019
Nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of childhood obesity are in the South, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health. Georgia and Alabama sit at the eighth and ninth position with 18.4 percent and 18.2 percent of children between the age of 10 and 17 suffering from obesity, respectively.
Helping to combat this since 2012, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has given out $250,000 each school year through its Be Healthy School Grant Program. The grant money, which is given out to 25 different schools every year, is meant to go towards exercise equipment and better physical education.
“We ask the schools to concentrate on three areas, which are exercise, nutrition and parental involvement,” said Jeff Adams, community relations manager of the organization.
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Schools are chosen to receive the grant money through an application process, which Adams said takes into account each school’s plans for what the money will be used for in relation to healthier lifestyles. Five Points Elementary school was awarded grant money in 2012 and has been the only school in Chambers County to receive funding through this program since the program’s inception.
“They give us their plan on what their plans are in order to combat childhood obesity and at that time we use an internal matrix to determine our top applicants,” Adams said. “Each school can receive up to $10,000. I have seen schools with as low as 125 students so they may only request $5,000 or $6000 so that allows us to give the remaining balance toward another, larger school.”
Once the money is received, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama checks in on how the money is being used, but is largely hands-off in terms of what is done in each school’s program.
“We did not want to be heavy-handed. We become collaborators with them and felt that, after our first year, the schools would rather hold hands as opposed to us mandating what they do,” Adams said. “We hope that there becomes an awareness on the importance of exercise. We also want to establish life-long habits and want their parents to be involved to set an example.”
Surveys are sent out to schools as the semester comes to a close so that feedback can be given about what the money was used for. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama will then visit each school, awarding students in hopes that what they learned through the program sticks with them through life.
“We truly believe that this is a wonderful investment in the students and their futures,” Adams said. “Childhood obesity can lead to so many things and can cause health problems in the future, so we are trying to catch them early, teach them those values and instill in them the importance of exercise and good nutrition.”
Applications for grant money are being accepted until Friday, Match 22 at AlabamaBlue.com/schoolgrant.