Forging Educational Partnerships to Improve Kids’ Health

ACHP and our member plans know that good health largely happens outside the doctor’s office – in fact, only 20 percent of factors that determine health fall under the formal label of health care.  A full 80 percent of health relies on external factors, including health behaviors, socioeconomic factors and environmental influences. That’s why we have linked specific examples of improvements outside of “health care” to a framework for community health work. These examples reveal how ACHP plans function as leaders, innovators and partners in their communities to bolster the health and well-being of all.

Last week, we added to our ongoing community health profiles with five new releases showcasing our members’ collaborations with schools. With approximately one in five children in the U.S. deemed overweight or obese by age six, and around half of obese children going on to become obese adults, developing healthy habits in childhood is vital. We profile HealthPartners, Kaiser Permanente, UCare, Capital Health Plan and Independent Health on how each plan is partnering with local communities to engage and educate children and their families in healthy lifestyles.

HealthPartners’ PowerUp is a community-wide youth health initiative that serves more than 30,000 people annually. By working with children, families, schools, business and more, PowerUp helps kids ages 3-11 make healthy choices by offering nutritious food options at school events, providing free open gym times and developing toolkits for widespread change. And kids love Chomp the carrot.

Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools is a grass-roots wellness project working to cultivate long-term partnerships and change for community health. The program supports healthy eating and living habits across seven geographical regions in the U.S., and adjusts according to local needs and opportunities. And it goes further, supporting not only students but teachers, with projects such as staff room makeovers. Thriving Schools currently serves 115 school districts throughout Kaiser Permanente service areas.

UCare’s Minne-Loppett Youth Skiing Program teaches cross country skiing to low-income immigrant youth in Minneapolis from countries including Somalia, Thailand, Cambodia and Mexico. By offering elementary school students the opportunity to learn how to ski, UCare keeps low-income children active during the cold winter months while boosting their confidence. The plan also develops easy-to-prepare, nutritious “skiers’ recipes” for the children’s families.

Capital Health Plan’s Champions initiative implements the 3T approach: testing, tracking and training children’s health, performance and nutritional levels and outcomes. By assessing participants at the beginning and end of each semester, the program, which is available at over 50 Florida schools, helps reduce childhood obesity by promoting physical activity and healthy choices.

Independent Health’s Fitness for Kids Challenge collaborates with the Buffalo Bills and the Play 60 program to cover more than 150,000 elementary school students throughout Western New York, improving children’s exercise, diet and health literacy by asking participating schools to implement healthy policy changes.

ACHP held a webinar on March 4, with speakers from each of the programs coming together to discuss children’s health initiatives. A representative from the Healthy Schools Campaign gave an overview of why this work is important and provided key principles for effective collaborations.

All the panelists agreed: Authentic partnerships that encourage open dialogue among all involved foster lasting change for kids and communities. Each of the programs profiled goes beyond the classroom to inspire long term changes in children’s behavior, and in how communities approach health and well-being. All of the initiatives make healthy living organic and accessible – and above all, fun. After all, according to Marna Canterbury, Director of Community Health at HealthPartners, “A cake walk can be replaced with a fruit walk.” By working within and alongside their communities, ACHP member plans are inspiring healthy mindsets and improving children’s health nationwide.

Click here to access the ACHP webinar, Forging Educational Partnerships to Improve Kids’ Health.


– Ceci Connolly, ACHP President and CEO
Lindsay Arrington, Innovation Programs Associate