Friday, September 25, 2009

Aetna, Georgia Public Broadcasting Begin Campaign to Fight Childhood Obesity in the State

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aetna (NYSE: AET) and Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) have kicked off a 12-month statewide multi-media campaign to raise awareness of the increased risks of childhood obesity.

Funded by a $50,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, the campaign will include community health events in Atlanta, Macon, Savannah and Columbus; a series of television and radio spots; and a 60-minute television special that will air tonight.

During last night’s TV special, an expert panel discussed causes and solutions to the epidemic of childhood obesity that is plaguing Georgia. A GPB phone bank and on-line chat connected viewers with a group of experts led by the Georgia Department of Community Health.

“With the help of great organizations such as GPB and Aetna, we will continue to provide educational resources that improve the wellness of Georgia’s children,” said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Georgia Public Broadcasting will host a community health event Sept. 26 in Atlanta. Other events are scheduled Oct. 2 in Augusta, Nov. 7 in Macon and Nov. 14 in Savannah. An additional community health event will be scheduled in Columbus on a date to be determined.

Dr. Neal Shulman, the real-life “Doc Hollywood” whose story inspired the 1991 Michael J. Fox movie of the same name, will be featured at all of the events, educating children and their parents about the importance of healthy lifestyle choices in a fun and entertaining way. He also produced and is featured in the public service announcements being used as part of the campaign. Dr. Shulman lives in the Atlanta area and teaches at Emory University.

"GPB's collaboration with Aetna is one example of how we're fulfilling our mission of providing programs and services that are enriching to children and families," said GPB President and Executive Director Teya Ryan. "We're proud to use all of our media platforms to bring attention to this important issue."

In 2008 Aetna and the Aetna Foundation awarded community grants and sponsorships in Georgia totaling $725,000, with a particular focus on diabetes and related conditions. Year to date for 2009, they have awarded $596,000 for similar programs. Aetna provides health benefits to more than 600,000 people in Georgia.

“Obesity is a major health challenge, one that is diminishing the quality of life of people in our community,” said Cynthia Follmer, president of Aetna’s Georgia market. “Our children, particularly those from lower-income families, are particularly at risk. Working with Georgia Public Broadcasting, we’re committed to doing what we can to get people thinking about what they can do to combat obesity, and to provide support as they make the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes.”

According to a National Health and Nutrition survey, 2.7 million U.S. children are severely obese. The rate of severe childhood obesity has tripled over the past 25 years, putting increasing numbers of children at risk for diabetes and heart disease. In Georgia, 24 percent of school children are obese by the time they enter third grade, according to a recent report issued by the Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health.

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