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We Can' To Combat Youth Obesity

Armen Hareyan's picture

UPMC Health Plan, in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Children's Community Pediatrics, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, and H.J. Heinz Company, launches We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition!), a program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address the growing obesity epidemic facing our nation's youth. Across the country eight cities will simultaneously host We Can! events, including a national media event featuring the Surgeon General in Boston, MA. The other cities are Los Angeles; New York; Las Vegas; Memphis; Oak Ridge, TN; Rockford, IL; and Carson City, NV.

UPMC Health Plan will be working with the partner agencies to develop programming focused on healthy eating and active lifestyles for the youth of Western Pennsylvania. We Can! was designed so that local civic groups, parent groups, churches, and others can implement activities in their communities. We Can! reaches parents and caregivers in home and community settings with educational materials and activities, including a new course for parents, a website, a parent handbook in both English and Spanish, several youth programs, and community events and projects.

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"The We Can! program empowers parents in Western Pennsylvania with innovative resources to help their families maintain healthy lifestyles," said Diane P. Holder, President of UPMC Health Plan. "We are proud to be part of this initiative to help youth in our region achieve better health."

"The National Institutes of Health developed We Can! to introduce research-based information and strategies to teach children how to adopt behaviors that can help them maintain a healthy weight," notes Dr. Susan Shurin, deputy director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at NIH. "We are pleased to announce that Pittsburgh has joined We Can! as our fifth We Can! City. Through the efforts of communities like Pittsburgh, we can make a difference."

As part of the We Can! City Program, NIH provides technical assistance on planning and implementing We Can! in the participating cities, as well as science-based programs for youth and parents, and strategies for implementing programs, creating partnerships, and gaining public visibility. Each city has pledged to offer We Can! evidence-based obesity prevention programs to both parents and youth in collaboration with community-based partners. In addition, each city will distribute We Can! tips and information to city employees. To date, more than 450 community sites in 44 states have committed to use We Can! program materials and organize classes and events.

We Can! is a science-based, national education program developed by the National Institutes of Health -- a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- to help children ages 8-13 stay at a healthy weight by improving food choices, increasing physical activity, and reducing screen time. We Can! is unique among existing youth obesity-prevention initiatives in its focus on reaching parents and families as a primary group for influencing young people.