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Highmark Foundation-sponsored programming at one western Pennsylvania residential facility helps adjudicated youth lose weight, reduce average BMI, LDL and triglyceride levels

Jan. 21, 2016 | Pittsburgh, Pa.

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 21, 2016) — The Highmark Foundation recently published a white paper highlighting the successful efforts of George Junior Republic (GJR), a western Pennsylvania residential facility dedicated to helping at-risk youth, in building capacity to improve nutrition and physical activity opportunities. With the assistance of more than $300,000 in Highmark Foundation grants, GJR created programming that reduced the prevalence of overweight and obesity and other significant risk factors that created barriers to healthy lifestyles for its population. Results also show that the efforts aided in improving the overall health of participants and helped them to achieve sustainable long- and short-term goals.

"Facilities like George Junior Republic can promote and encourage healthy behaviors in adjudicated youth," said Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook. "We commend the outstanding efforts of this organization to encourage healthy behaviors in its population. The goal is to develop youth who are healthy and more confident in themselves and their abilities and are able to make better decisions that impact their future."

Focusing predominantly on overweight and obese youth, GJR created two programs conceived with input from medical, treatment and recreation professionals to engage youth in activities to decrease weight gain from unhealthy lifestyle choices and medication. The inclusion of a certified fitness trainer was a significant component of each program. The trainer helped to strengthen GJR’s physical activity program, which led to successful program outcomes.

GJR’s Pointing Adolescents Toward Health (PATH) program is a multidisciplinary team approach to exercise, health and nutrition that encourages participants to integrate exercise, appropriate nutrition choices and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle into their daily routine. It includes a variety of exercises and customized fitness training programs based on participants’ ability, fitness level, comprehension and weight. The 85 youth that participated in the 40-week program lost approximately 352 pounds and decreased their body mass index (BMI) by an average of 2 percent.

The Healthy Lifestyle Leaders Program (HLLP) expanded on the PATH program by incorporating a structured mentoring component to provide education, fitness interventions and individualized personal training. HLLP also encourages participants who exhibit readiness to become peer mentors and motivators for other GJR youth, a model that has proven effective in assisting students to develop leadership qualities and in improving fitness outcomes and decreasing BMI in less-motivated youth. A total of 102 HLLP participants lost approximately 479 pounds over the year-long program and decreased their BMI by an average of 0.6 percent.

"We are extremely pleased with the results of the PATH and HLLP programs, and we are proud of our students' dedication and combined accomplishments," said Richard L. Losasso, George Junior Republic CEO.  "George Junior Republic is thankful to the Highmark Foundation for its support in making these programs possible for our youth."

Overall, Highmark Foundation-sponsored PATH and HLLP helped 187 adjudicated youth to collectively lose 831.1 pounds and reduce average BMI, LDL and triglyceride levels.

View a full-text version of the Highmark Foundation white paper, "Reducing Barriers to Physical Activity for Adjudicated Youth: Implementing Promising Solutions to Improve Health Outcomes."


About George Junior Republic

George Junior Republic is dedicated to helping at-risk youth become successful, well adjusted adults, capable of achieving a higher degree of citizenship, and a better understanding of his responsibility to society, his family and himself. Established in 1909, the nonprofit organization has served nearly 58,000 young men on the Grove City campus and serves an additional 1,000 youth and families per day through service delivery systems of George Junior Republic in Indiana and Preventative Aftercare, Inc. For more information, visit

About the Highmark Foundation

The Highmark Foundation is a private, charitable organization of Highmark Inc. that supports initiatives and programs aimed at improving community health. The Foundation's mission is to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in the communities served by Highmark Inc. The Foundation strives to support evidence-based programs that impact multiple counties and work collaboratively to leverage additional funding to achieve replicable models. For more information, visit


David Misner
Highmark Health