Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Pfizer Inc today announced the formation of Balance It Out: Arkansas, a new school-based community program to reduce the number of children who are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, effectively diminishing their risk of developing chronic illness. In December 2006, the program will begin in Little Rock, AR, with a health fair for state employees designed to increase awareness of health risk factors and steps to prevent disease. Beginning in early 2007, the program will reach children and their families in the Dollarway (Pine Bluff), Harrison and Paragould school districts.
?We all understand that obesity is one of the most critical public health threats in the U.S., because being overweight increases the risk of many chronic diseases and health conditions,” said Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. ?Balance It Out: Arkansas will give children, their families and the surrounding community practical tools and coaching to make healthy choices for themselves and their futures.”
Balance It Out: Arkansas will introduce a variety of initiatives to the three school districts, including deploying trained community teams and school nurses to assist and coach children to better understand the health risks of being overweight and to make incremental, lasting changes to their nutrition and fitness behavior. The program will provide at-risk families with nutritional counseling and classes on healthy cooking, eating and food shopping. In addition, chronically ill Medicaid beneficiaries with children in the proposed school districts will receive one-on-one health coaching to improve their families? overall health.
?We believe Balance It Out will prove that connecting health services and improving access for people, especially children and families with limited healthcare coverage, will improve the overall health of communities, and thereby reduce health system costs.” said Peter Brandt, president, U.S. Pharmaceuticals at Pfizer. ?This program will teach children and their families the importance of balanced nutrition and staying physically active, which over time will create healthier communities. Our experience has shown that when healthcare centers on individuals, focuses on prevention and behavioral changes, and is readily available, it can improve the quality of patients? lives and reduce costs.”
The program was designed and will be implemented by Pfizer Health Solutions (PHS), the care management subsidiary of Pfizer, working in partnership with Arkansas? Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) (which includes Medicaid), its surgeon general, the governor?s healthcare policy advisor, and an existing advocacy group called Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. Balance It Out: Arkansas will be launched in the three selected school districts in early 2007. Pfizer is committing approximately $2.8 million to manage the program over the next three years. If outcomes are positive as expected, Pfizer and Arkansas may expand the program.
?Collaboration between the public and private sector is a key element to the success of our mission,” said John Selig, Director of the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services. ?Partnerships like these are just one of the many tools employed to help Arkansans improve their quality of life and manage the healthcare cost to our state.”
?The announcement of this new partnership between the State of Arkansas and Pfizer is another very positive step in the fight against childhood obesity,” said Gary Deverman, Executive Vice President and CEO of Shaping America?s Heath, an initiative created by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) that is focused on enabling and empowering individuals, families and communities to take ownership of their health. ?Shaping America’s Health applauds this initiative to directly address the needs of Arkansan families and their communities.”
ABOUT ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services serves more than one million Arkansans in 181 locations throughout the state. The Department?s mission is to improve the quality of life of all Arkansans by protecting the vulnerable, fostering independence, and promoting better health.
ABOUT HEALTHY ARKANSAS
Governor Mike Huckabee launched Healthy Arkansas in May 2004, after successfully losing more than 110 lbs. and realizing how unhealthy Arkansas was compared to other states. The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services and the Governor?s Office teamed up to provide Arkansans a comprehensive effort to clearly define specific areas where behavioral changes can lead to healthier citizens. The burden of chronic diseases, including diabetes, stroke, lung and heart diseases, and cancer, is higher in Arkansas than in the nation generally.
ABOUT PFIZER INC: Working for a healthier world
Founded in 1849, Pfizer is the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company taking new approaches to better health. We discover and develop innovative medicines to treat and help prevent disease for both people and animals. Through consistent, high-quality manufacturing and distribution operations, our medicines reach patients in 180 nations. We also partner with healthcare providers, governments and local communities around the world to expand access to our medicines and to provide better quality healthcare and health system support. At Pfizer, our colleagues work every day to help people stay happier and healthier longer and to reduce the human and economic burden of disease worldwide.
ABOUT BALANCE IT OUT: ARKANSAS
The program?s services and education are designed for commercial and Medicaid-insured families and are made available through a collaborative effort by the Arkansas Coordinated School Health Program (CSH). The infrastructure of this initiative is supported by CSH, which is a student health and education program led by the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Board of Education and supported by the Governor?s coalition of Healthy Arkansas. The initiative?s services will be implemented by the professional and clinical staffs of PHS in collaboration with local healthcare companies and children?s advocacy groups such as Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and local schools.
Balance It Out: Arkansas will identify participants from the proposed school districts through health screenings conducted at school health fairs. Information obtained from the health screenings will be used to determine how to best provide nutrition and fitness coaching to participants and their families. The program?s design consists of two different components, providing different levels of support based upon risk factors and the needs of each individual.
The two components are designed to serve all children and their families, regardless of the results of their health screening. The first component, which will serve a majority of the participants, will focus on prevention and wellness and encourage nutrition and fitness awareness. The amount of education and action provided by school nurses and community members will depend on the health of the individual participants. The second component, serving 300 Medicaid families faced with chronic illness, will focus more heavily on providing disease management in addition to prevention and wellness education. These participants will receive more intensive coaching to help them learn how to take better care of their health.
To evaluate impact, the program will measure changes in health status and costs. Improvements in individual behaviors should include improved adherence to personalized diet and activity plans. Improved clinical measures should include lowered Body Mass Index (BMI), improved cholesterol and greater adherence to physicians? treatment plans. Program engagement and medical utilization data will also be measured and tracked. Improvements in behavior, clinical values and appropriate use of healthcare are expected to lower Medicaid costs.