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UnitedHealthcare donates game kits to Dr. King Elementary students to help fight obesity

By Eric Reinhardt


UnitedHealthcare last Thursday donated about 100 Nerf Energy game kits to students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School at 416 E. Raynor Ave. in Syracuse. The kits use a reward system called “exergaming” to encourage exercise to earn energy points in the video game. The initiative is part of a national effort in partnership with Pawtucket, Rhode Island–based Hasbro Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS) to help combat obesity among children, UnitedHealthcare said. (Eric Reinhardt / BJNN)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — UnitedHealthcare on Thursday donated Nerf Energy game kits to 100 students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School at 416 E. Raynor Ave. in Syracuse.

The initiative — a collaboration between Pawtucket, Rhode Island–based Hasbro Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS) and UnitedHealthcare — is part of a nationwide program with the Boys & Girls Clubs to combat obesity in children and “encourage greater physical activity among youth,” UnitedHealthcare said. It refers to childhood obesity is a “national health crisis.”

“We’ve probably [provided kits] to over 10,000 kids across the country. This is the first time, though, that we’ve done it in the state of New York,” Michael McGuire, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of New York, told BJNN at Thursday’s event.

UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of Minnetonka, Minnesota–based UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH).

UnitedHealthcare donated the game kits to students at Dr. King Elementary because the former POMCO Group, which UnitedHealth Group acquired in March 2017, has a client relationship with the Syracuse City School District, according to McGuire.

POMCO Group now operates under the UMR brand, which is UnitedHealthcare’s third-party administrator of self-funded health-care and risk-management plans.

UnitedHealthcare may donate game kits to additional Syracuse schools, but will wait for feedback from Dr. King Elementary before making any decisions, says McGuire.

UnitedHealth Group’s acquisition of POMCO Group added to its presence in the Syracuse area. It operates an Upstate office in DeWitt and a consumer-support center in the Alpha Medical building at 610 South Salina St. in Syracuse.

Reason for donation

UnitedHealthcare cited data from the Atlanta, Georgia–based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicates about 17 percent of children and adolescents ages two to 19 nationwide are obese.

It also pointed to data from the March 2018 America’s Health Rankings report entitled “Health of Women and Children Report” indicating that more than 30 percent of New York children between the ages of 10 and 17 are considered obese.

America’s Health Rankings is a program of United Health Foundation, which UnitedHealth Group established in 1999 as a nonprofit, private foundation “dedicated to improving health and health care,” according to its website.

How the kits work

Each of the kits includes a Nerf Energy game band, a Nerf Pro foam soccer ball, and instructions to download the Nerf Energy Rush mobile game to get kids moving.

The Nerf Energy game kits are designed to use a reward system called “exergaming” to encourage physical activity among children. As children participate in a physical activity, they earn “energy points” that are tracked by the activity band. These points turn into screen time to play the NERF Energy Rush mobile game on a smartphone or tablet.

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