Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan has been a great friend to The OrganWise Guys. We so appreciate the way this company is being proactive in the fight against childhood obesity and got a chance to catch up with Shoma Pal who works with some of these initiatives. We think you’ll love her and be just as impressed with her work as we are!
OWG: Tell us about your job; how long have you been working with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan and what do you do?
Shoma: I’ve been working in the Social Mission area of Blue Cross for seven years. My responsibility is to develop and manage grant programs designed to address critical health issues among youth in our state.
OWG: Why is the issue of childhood obesity so important to your company?
Shoma: Obesity and tobacco are the two leading causes of death in our country and are the two highest controllable cost drivers of health care. We, as a company, have the opportunity through our funding to make improvements to a school’s built environment, impact school-based policy, create opportunities for increased physical activity and better nutrition and more importantly, educate and empower our youth to make wise decisions regarding their lifestyle behaviors. You can learn more by visiting http://www.bcbsm.com/buildhealth/index.shtml
OWG: Since BCBSM partners with OWG to implement programming in Michigan schools, can you tell us some of the success stories that you’ve heard?
Shoma: One of our 2009 grantee elementary schools had a student who lost forty pounds in one year alone by learning what to eat and engaging in daily physical activity. He and his family attribute his successful weight loss to the lessons learned from The OrganWise Guys program and the BodyWorks parent program. We also received a packet of letters from another elementary school written by students to Blue Cross expressing their gratitude for providing the OWG. Included in the letters were descriptions of their most beloved characters, explanations of how the OWG characters influence their decisions, along with a list of their favorite program components; especially the classroom exercises, activity books and video shorts.
OWG: As you know, March is National Nutrition Month. Have you heard of any fun ideas to help kids focus on healthy eating this month?
Shoma: Some schools have had a healthy foods celebration where students are exposed to healthy, but tasty new recipes. Moreover, all schools that we fund are required to offer healthy food tastings. Over the years, schools have shared their experiences of how the taste testings have led to an increased interest in healthy eating by students. Teachers report parents contacting the schools to obtain copies of the healthy recipes, at the request of their kids.
OWG: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
Shoma: Hearing and witnessing first hand from school staff and students how our Building Healthy Communities program has made a real difference. Seeing our programs put in action during site visits provides me the unique opportunity to experience the kids’ enthusiasm for programs offered through our toolbox, like the The OrganWise Guys. Teachers, school nurses and principals constantly provide anecdotes for how students are now trying new fruits and vegetables, consuming more nutritious foods and taking the time to exercise more while having fun as a result of this program.