Secretary of Health Visits Two 'Active Schools' in Allegheny County to Recognize their Commitment to Daily Physical Activity
HARRISBURG, Pa., May 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Health Everette James today visited the Avonworth and Mt. Royal middle schools in Allegheny County to commend students and teachers for their yearlong commitment to exercising for 30 minutes every school day.
"It is great to see the improvement these students have made in their levels of fitness and to hear how it has benefitted them," said James. "These schools are demonstrating that when the health of students is made a top priority, scheduling at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day can be done. In addition, they are confirming the research that tells us physically active kids perform better in school."
James, along with a member from the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, presented a plaque to the schools for their implementation of evidence-based physical activity programs through the Active Schools program. Individual students were also recognized for improvements made in fitness assessments and talked about how the program has benefited them.
James was joined by former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris and other special guests to show support and help celebrate the students' accomplishments.
Each middle school received one of 40 Active School grants awarded by the Department of Health through the federal Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant. Schools received a $5,000 grant from the department and an additional $10,000 from one of five supporting organizations. The program requires schools to assess all participating students and to implement evidence-based physical activities that meet federal guidelines.
Schools were selected for participation based on their commitment to provide a health and fitness curriculum that adds 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. According to a recent survey, only about 38 percent of the state's middle school students get that amount of daily activity.
James pointed out that physical activity is essential for all children to develop healthy hearts, strong bones and sharp minds. Combined with good nutrition, physical activity is also important to address the childhood obesity epidemic. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last 25 years. Overweight children face an increased risk of health problems as adolescents and adults, including diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer.
Obesity is more than a health risk; it also contributes significantly to the cost of treating chronic diseases which are responsible for at least 70 percent of all health expenditures. A 2009 study found obese Americans – those who are 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight – cost the nation an estimated $147 billion in weight-related medical bills in 2008, double what it was ten years prior.
Highmark provided funding to Avonworth Middle School and is also providing funds for 11 other participating schools. UPMC Health Plan provided funding to Mt. Royal Middle School and is also providing funds for two other participating schools.
"We're very grateful for the support of Highmark, UPMC Health Plan and the other organizations that have joined as full community partners in this important effort," said James. "Support from community organizations plays a key role in ensuring the health of our children."
The State Board of Education voted this month to advance new physical activity standards that would require all schools to provide 30 minutes of physical activity to all students every day. For more information on the proposed regulations, visit the Department of Education online at www.education.state.pa.us.
For more information on the Active Schools Grant Program, visit the Department of Health online at www.health.state.pa.us/activeschools.
Media contact: Holli Senior, 717-787-1783
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health