When 750 children turned out Saturday morning for AmeriHealth Mercy Foundation and the Keystone Mercy Health Plan’s ninth annual Healthy Hoops program, they received hands-on asthma education.
The program, which was held at St. Joseph’s University Hagan Arena, was geared toward improving asthma management and reducing childhood obesity.
“The children were very excited and we had an opportunity to grab the parents in the audience and just educate them,” says Tonya Moody, vice president of development and programming, AmeriHealth Mercy Foundation.
“It is a great effort in improving the quality of life in our community,” she said.
During the program, asthmatic children underwent spirometry screenings to determine their lung capacity and were educated about the importance of using their asthma devices. Participating physicians developed asthma action plans that will be forwarded to the children’s respective primary care providers.
The event enabled children to tap into basketball clinics led by legends Sonny Hill and Speedy Morris.
The program was held in collaboration with Charlie Mack’s Party4Peace Celebrity Weekend 2012, which aimed to reduce violence in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. During the program, children had an opportunity to meet various celebrities including actors Terry Crews, Will Smith, Hill Harper, Tisha Campbell and comedian Chris Rock.
“The celebrities were very heartfelt. We had a lot of positive discussions on achievement and good health and making good choices and improving the quality of life,” says Moody.
“The celebrities were very instrumental in promoting and motivating our young people to do the right thing as they travel through life.”
About 100 volunteers from the AmeriHealth Mercy Foundation and KMHP were on hand for Saturday’s event.
KMHP officials credit the Healthy Hoops program with helping to reduce inpatient visits and health care costs. The KMHP members who participated in the 2009 event saw their patient utilization costs decrease by nearly 46 percent and their number of inpatient visits decrease by 62 percent.
“By teaching members better health management strategies, they reduce the likelihood of costly emergency room visits and inpatient hospitalizations,” said Maria Pajil Battle, president of the AmeriHealth Mercy Foundation.
Since its inception in 2003, Healthy Hoops has been expanded to other parts of the country including Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina. The program has impacted more than 10,000 children, enabling them to receive full physicals and pre-and post-program health screenings.
The focus on asthma management comes at a time when approximately 22 percent of Philadelphia children under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with asthma according to Philadelphia Allies Against Asthma and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.