Highmark Foundation

  • 2019-2020

    Healthy Champions

    PRO Wellness has extensive experience in developing and implementing promotional campaigns through the management of its Healthy Champions program. Thanks to funding from the Highmark Foundation during the 2019-2020 school year the program reaches more than 600 schools in Pennsylvania.

    To enroll in the program, schools complete an online assessment and are provided a personalized score based on the reported wellness initiatives in multiple areas of school wellness, including physical activity, nutrition, mental wellness, parent engagement and community engagement.

    Once enrolled, schools receive a complimentary welcome kit, which includes a display banner signifying enrollment, wellness infographic posters, access to an online resource portal, monthly newsletters, and event toolkits to host and promote four signature awareness events: Apple Crunch, Walk to School Day, Go for the Greens and Move it Outside. In addition, PRO Wellness provides special incentives for enrolling through established partnerships. Through collaboration with the Hershey Bears® Hockey Club, actively enrolled schools in 19 south-central Pennsylvania counties are provided an opportunity for each student to attend a Hershey Bears® hockey game.

  • 2015-2016

    School Nurse Services

    Conducting health screenings for an entire student body can take months to complete. This initiative takes pressure off nurses so they can spend their time helping students. With funding from the Highmark Foundation, PRO Wellness partnered with community hospitals and school districts in western and central Pennsylvania to expedite state-mandated school health screenings.

    Schools were chosen based on their location and participation in federal meals programming.

    • Jefferson Hospital teamed up Duquesne City School District to conduct vision, hearing, scoliosis, height and weight screenings, for nearly 300 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
    • Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center teamed up with the Steelton-Highspire School District to conduct vision, hearing, scoliosis, height and weight screenings, for nearly 900 students first through twelfth grade.

    Click here to learn more about Revamping School-Based Health Screenings: A Community Partnership Yielding Better Outcomes, Healthier Students.

    In an effort to improve school health, PRO Wellness surveyed school nurses to gain insight into which educational topics would be of most value to them and their schools. Using the information collected, PRO Wellness developed five pre-recorded, professional development trainings for school nurses.

    “School nurses do more than just tend to scraped knees and upset stomachs. They play an integral role in keeping our kids healthy. We are proud to partner with Penn State Hershey PRO Wellness to offer the School Nurse Professional Development Web Series and help school nurses learn about health care subjects that are important to them. We want to provide the resources they need to best take care of our children.”

    – Yvonne Cook, Highmark Foundation President.

    Physician experts from Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Allegheny Health Network were consulted to create topical trainings that also counted towards continuing education credits.

    Topics include:

    We are no longer able to provide access to ACT 48/58 credit hours for completion of the pre-recorded, school nurse professional development trainings. However, we will issue a certificate of completion. Click here to request a certificate of completion that can be submitted through your professional channels to request credit.

    Click here to learn more about the School Nurse Professional Development Web Series.

    The learnings from this project were published within the Health Education Journal: Investigating the effectiveness of webinars in the adoption of proven school wellness strategies. 

  • 2015

    Body Mass Index Screening Letter

    Penn State PRO Wellness partnered with the Highmark Foundation to develop and test an effective BMI screening letter as a resource for parents. This tool aimed to act as a resource to make healthy lifestyle changes for families. There were two phases to this project:

    Phase One

    • Structured interviews with 42 parents from six schools in Pennsylvania
    • Requested parent feedback on two different BMI screening letters
      • Standard letter
      • Expert-revised letter
    • Based on feedback, the revised letter included:
      • Explanation of health risks
      • Specific actions
      • Graphics

    “I absolutely love the look of this letter! So much easier for parents to read and understand!!! Love it!!!!!”

    -Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

    Phase Two

    • Schools assigned to either mail-out standard or revised letter
      • Standard (eight schools)
      • Revised (eight schools)
    • With the mail-out, parents were invited to complete a survey
      • 385 parents completed survey
      • Based on intention and predicted actions

    The revised letter was a success! Results showed that 68% of parents [of overweight or obese children] expressed more intent to take action based on information from the revised letter compared to the standard letter’s results of only 45% of parents (68% vs. 45%). 82% of parents of overweight or obese students were also more likely to read the entire revised letter (82% vs 77%).

    Fun fact:

    From these efforts, the Pennsylvania Department of Health now provides the Penn State PRO Wellness’ revised BMI screening letter as the state recommended letter for all school in Pennsylvania. Center for Disease Control also features our letter as a preferred.

    Click here to learn more about Body Mass Index Screening Letter.

    Click here to listen to our WITF Smart Talk interview about new BMI messaging to help fight childhood obesity.
  • 2014-2016

    Creating a Healthy School Environment Grant Program

    From 2014-2016 Penn State PRO Wellness partnered with the Highmark Foundation to award Creating a Healthy School Environment Grants and Awards to over 100 schools in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. PRO Wellness provided technical assistance to schools in three program areas:

    • Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
    • Childhood Injury Prevention
    • Physical and Environmental Health

    Sustainable programs created or supported through technical assistance include:

    • Enhanced fitness assessment
    • Farm to table programs
    • Concussion prevention and education
    • Air purification systems
    • Using “green” cleaning products
    • Nutrition promotion campaigns
    • Before and after school Physical Activity

    … We believe that a healthy school environment breeds a better learning environment and workplace for our students and employees. Through the generosity of the Highmark Foundation, Gateway is now on the road to making successful changes in our air quality that will positively impact all who attend and work in our schools.

    – Dr. Nina Zetty, superintendent of schools for the Gateway School District School District

    Click here to learn more about Creating a Healthy School Environment Grant Program.

    The learnings from this project were published within the Health Education Journal: Investigating the effectiveness of webinars in the adoption of proven school wellness strategies.

  • 2011

    Community-Based Organizations

    Penn State PRO Wellness partnered with the Highmark Foundation in 2011 to develop practical and comprehensive approaches for community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide sustainable programming on nutrition and physical activity in their after-school and summer programs. By partnering with schools, this initiative was able to positively impact over 5,000 students! The following seven CBOs spread throughout four counties were included in this partnership:

    • Family Resources
    • Hosanna House
    • Lancaster Recreation Commission
    • Olivet Boys & Girls Club of Reading & Berks County
    • Salvation Army
    • Schenley Heights Youth Development
    • Youthplaces

    …The more we instill in our children early in life these physical activity habits that will last them a lifetime, the better they’re going to do. And so we’ll try to do what we can to expand those opportunities before school, during the school day, after school…

    – Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

    By providing technical assistance and funding, this initiative was successful at increasing the capacity of after-school and summer programming by providing exciting new programming:

    • Year-round swimming program
    • Team sports program
    • Kids in the Kitchen (health & fitness program)
    • Tennis, soccer and basketball programs
    • Zumba

    Click here to learn more about Community-Based Organizations.

  • 2010

    Super+School Challenge

    Giving Level: Over $650,000

    In 2010, Highmark Foundation’s Super+School Challenge provided $50,000 to 13 Pennsylvania schools to make effective and sustainable changes to their school environment in the areas of nutrition and physical activity. This challenge takes advantage of the school environment’s unique position to act as a focal point for obesity prevention.

    Penn State’s PRO Wellness helped this program succeed by coordinating the Super+School Challenge Grant Program. Assistance was provided to the participating schools to ensure that grant requirements were met throughout the two-year funding period.

    … Once we kicked off the program, the kids loved it! We have received such positive feedback from the students. The initial response was overwhelming and we had so many students eating at the salad bar that the other lunch lines were nearly empty!

    New Kensington Arnold School District – Greenwald Elementary

    The program impacted more than 7,880 students, K-12!

    Nutritional Changes Implemented include:

    • Nutrition education into curriculum
    • Salad bars in elementary school buildings
    • Growing own fruits and vegetables
    • After-school nutrition programming

    Physical Activity Changes Implemented include:

    • New recreation and activity-based curriculum in physical education
    • Purchase of heart rate monitors and mountain bikes
    • Turning unused spaces into fitness centers
    • After-school physical-activity programming
    • Outdoor fitness trail

    Click here to learn more about Super+School Challenge.