Georgia First Lady: Health Empowers You! Program Yields Positive Results

September 15, 2014

LOCUST GROVE (September 4, 2014) – At Bethlehem Elementary, Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal and Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., today announced that Health Empowers YOU!, a grant program designed to improve children’s activity levels and health during the school day, produced successful results throughout the 2013-2014 school year. The findings of this program informed Georgia SHAPE’s new Power Up for 30 program.

“Childhood obesity is a serious threat in Georgia, but the results of this program prove that it is not an insurmountable challenge,” said First Lady Deal. “By taking simple actions during the school day, we can help students get active, improve their health and have fun doing it.”

Health Empowers You! provides professional training, curriculum and resources to enable teachers to increase physical activity among their students during the school day, as well as before and after school. Professors from Georgia State University evaluated the results and found increased activity levels, increased aerobic capacity, improved Body Mass Index (BMI) percentiles and improved knowledge of important physical activity concepts among students at the 39 participating Georgia elementary schools.

Health Empowers You! was created by HealthMPowers, a Georgia non-profit organization that promotes healthy eating and physical activity in schools using evidence-based guidelines from the CDC. Funding for the HealthMPowers program was provided by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation.

"This is a program with proven results that's making a significant impact on the health of children throughout Georgia," said BCBSGa President Morgan Kendrick. "Investing in kids' health is investing in their future. This program ensures that kids enter the classroom ready to learn and succeed."

Findings from the program were used to guide training and resource development for the new Power Up for 30 program, which is part of the Georgia SHAPE initiative to combat childhood obesity. This voluntary program encourages every elementary school in Georgia to include an additional 30 minutes of physical activity each day. So far, 316 schools are signed up to participate.

“The wonderful thing about this program is that its impact won’t be limited to the 39 schools that participated last year, but will affect children across the state” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, which administers Georgia SHAPE. “The scientifically researched methods and results will be used to inform statewide programs moving forward, and they will be a valuable tool.”

About the Georgia Department of Public Health

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is the lead agency in preventing disease, injury and disability; promoting health and well-being; and preparing for and responding to disasters from a health perspective. In 2011, the General Assembly restored DPH to its own state agency after more than 30 years of consolidation with other departments. At the state level, DPH functions through numerous divisions, sections, programs and offices. Locally, DPH funds and collaborates with Georgia's 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts. Through the changes, the mission has remained constant – to protect the lives of all Georgians. Today, DPH’s main functions include: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records, and the State Public Health Laboratory. For more information about DPH, visit dph.ga.gov.

About Georgia SHAPE

Georgia SHAPE is an exciting initiative to improve Georgia’s future, beginning with our state’s most vital and important asset – our young people. We know all children can benefit from knowledge of their current health-related fitness levels, along with a capacity to develop and implement strategies for personal improvement. Under the leadership of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia SHAPE is a network of partners, agencies and athletic teams – including the Coca-Cola Company, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons, the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Georgia Department of Education, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, among many others – all committed to improving the health of our young people by offering assistance and opportunity to achieve a greater level of overall fitness. GeorgiaSHAPE.org is a central clearinghouse for information and opportunity. For more information on Georgia SHAPE, visit: www.georgiashape.org.

About HealthMPowers

HealthMPowers is a unique, coordinated initiative designed to increase health knowledge and promote health-enhancing behaviors among youth by providing state-of-the-art programming in the school setting. Health education lessons are presented in a memorable and interactive way, helping each student build a foundation for making responsible health decisions throughout the course of his or her life. By working in collaboration with teachers and parents, HealthMPowers also helps build the supportive environment necessary for the adoption of health-enhancing behaviors. Health promotion programs and services are provided to students, teachers and families. For more information, visitwww.healthmpowers.org.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation

Through charitable grant making, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, promotes Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia’s inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that the company serves. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s annual associate giving campaign and its parent foundation provides a 50 percent match of associates’ campaign pledges. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.