COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Teenagers who are blind and visually impaired will have new opportunities to live healthy, active lifestyles thanks to a $150,000 grant from the WellPoint Foundation to the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). The grant will help teens in 12 states participate in a National Physical Fitness Challenge.
Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, lower risks of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, because of the many barriers and misconceptions about their abilities, approximately 70 percent of the nearly 56,000 blind and visually impaired children and youth in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum.
“The USABA-WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge is a game changer for blind and visually impaired teens who typically are not afforded the same physical education and recreation opportunities as their sighted peers,” said Mark Lucas, executive director of USABA. “The USABA-WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge will get blind and visually impaired teens moving. Our goal is to motivate them to become more physically active and provide them with the additional tools needed to help them develop and lead healthy lifestyles long after the Challenge has ended.”
The USABA-WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge will provide nutrition education for up to 1,000 teens. Conducted through a structured, yet fun and challenging fitness and weight loss program, the Challenge will work to increase participants’ activity levels and improve their health, as measured through reductions in Body Mass Index (BMI) measures.
“The WellPoint Foundation is committed to helping children and adults live active lives and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity,” said Steve Martenet, president and general manager of WellPoint’s Specialty Products, which includes dental, vision, workers’ compensation, voluntary, life and disability benefits. “We believe no one should ever be denied the right to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of exercise, and we are proud to partner with the USABA to ensure that vision impairments do not limit the recreational opportunities afforded to kids across the country.”
The 12 states participating in the program through the WellPoint Foundation grant are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin. The WellPoint Foundation grant funds will be used to provide talking pedometers, t-shirts, prizes, fitness and nutrition coaches for teens participating in the program.
The National Fitness Challenge will kick off on Wednesday, June 1, and last for one year. Each participant will submit baseline data that will be used in creating achievable fitness and weight loss goals that will result in a decrease in BMI. Any adjustments made to short term goals will be provided by a fitness coach assigned to the group. Participants who achieve short-term goals will be rewarded with prizes.
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, most Americans are not covered by disability insurance. This is risky for many reasons, especially because the likelihood of experiencing a disabling injury or illness is more common than most people realize. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 51 million Americans were classified as disabled in 20021. And, since approximately three in 10 workers entering the workforce today will become disabled before retiring2, the financial hardships resulting from the lost income if the disability prohibits them from returning to their previous position can be devastating. In an effort to bring more attention to the need for disability insurance, the month of May is recognized as Disability Insurance Awareness Month (DIAM). The goal of DIAM is to have people think about their disability insurance needs and to become motivated to do something to address those needs.
1) “Americans With Disabilities: 2002,” U.S. Bureau of the Census, May 2006
2) Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet, Jan. 31, 2007
Since its founding in 1976, USABA, a community-based organization of the United States Olympic Committee, has reached more than 100,000 blind individuals. The organization has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of blind athletes, it has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind. USABA’s mission: to enhance the lives of blind and visually impaired people by providing the opportunity for participation in sports and physical activity. For more information go to http://www.usaba.org
The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses it’s funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s annual associate giving campaign and provides a 50 percent match of associates’ campaign pledges. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation, please visit Link will open in a new windowhttp://www.wellpointfoundation.org/.