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Arizona 4-H and UnitedHealthcare Expand “Eat 4-Health” Partnership; Use “Pedal Power” to Help Youth Tackle Obesity and Encourage Healthy Lifestyles

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UnitedHealthcare and Arizona 4-H are expanding a successful partnership called Eat4-Health that helps tackle obesity by promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles among youth and families.

Ruben (12) and Keishla Bolivar (12) from Calabasas Middle School create their own healthy smoothies

Ruben (12) and Keishla Bolivar (12) from Calabasas Middle School create their own healthy smoothies using specially-made blender bikes donated to Arizona 4-H by UnitedHealthcare as part of a $40,000 grant announced today at the Santa Cruz County Fair that will promote healthy living among youth (Photos by Tom Freeland for UnitedHealthcare).

UnitedHealthcare is providing the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, which administers 4-H programs in Arizona, a $40,000 grant to support youth healthy-living programs. Part of the grant is being used to purchase pedal-powered blender bikes that will be used for fun, energetic events where young people can create their own healthy smoothies through exercise.

The specially made stationary bikes are equipped with a blender mechanism that makes smoothies when pedaled. The smoothie bikes were unveiled today in at the Santa Cruz County Fair where young people made a healthy smoothie in return for a little “sweat equity.” At the fairgrounds, 4-H youth trained through the “Eat4-Health” program lead smoothie bike demonstrations and shared tips and recipes for creating easy, healthy smoothies and maintaining active lifestyles, among other activities.

“Arizona 4-H is very excited to participate at the Santa Cruz County fair where we can engage youth to make healthy choices and stay active,” said Elizabeth Sparks, 4-H Youth Development Program Leader at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. “With the support of UnitedHealthcare we are able to use the smoothie bikes to demonstrate a fun and easy way to eat a nutritious snack.”

The grant, along with the smoothie bikes and other exercise equipment, will be used to support community events and programs through spring 2015 in which youth and families can learn about easy ways to promote healthy lifestyles. Recipe cards, educational information and other resources will be distributed as part of the program. The goal is to encourage young people and their families to eat more nutritious foods and exercise regularly.

The University of Arizona 4-H Cooperative Extension has developed a plan to provide innovative, hands-on learning and target specific community needs in the state. Many of these activities support healthy-living programs led by 4-H that encourage youth and community participation.

UnitedHealthcare employees will help organize and host many of these events and will support 4-H with planning and implementing projects that lead to positive, sustainable change at the community and individual level. The company has already provided the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension with $100,000 to support the Eat4-Health program since 2011.

“UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to continue our work with Arizona 4-H to help educate young people about healthy lifestyles and exercise in their daily lives,” said Beth Soberg, President and CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Arizona. “These bikes and educational resources provide a unique way to deliver these messages in a positive and meaningful way.”

UnitedHealthcare is providing $520,000 to National 4-H Council to support youth healthy-living programs. In addition to Arizona, other state 4-H programs receiving grants include Florida, Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Eat4-Health, which began in 2011, has already reached more than 210,000 young people and families across nine states through a positive campaign that has trained thousands of 4-H teen youth health ambassadors to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities.

According to America’s Health Rankings(R), an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. According to the report Arizona ranks 16th in obesity with 26 % of adults and 10.8% of youth estimated to be obese. Obesity continues to be at epidemic levels and is one of the fastest-growing health challenges confronting the nation. The report can be viewed and downloaded at www.americashealthrankings.org.

About 4-H
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, cultivates confident kids who tackle the issues that matter most in their communities right now. In the United States, 4-H programs empower six million young people through the 109 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, independent, country-led 4-H organizations empower one million young people in more than 50 countries. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Learn more about 4-H at www.4-H.org.

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 800,000 physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. Globally, UnitedHealthcare serves more than 45million people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) , a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.

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