COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children nationwide and it’s impacting the daily lives of kids across Ohio.  

And with childhood health a growing concern post-pandemic, one community partnership is helping to encourage healthy lifestyles for youth in central Ohio 

“This basketball right here is the key to everything. It brings and bridges so many of us together,” encourages Joe Richmond, a coach and ambassador for Healthy Hoops. 

Dozens of kids went through passing, running, and shooting drills, using basketball not only as a platform for summer fun, but a tool to help kids adopt healthy behaviors.  

“I know if it could do it for me coming out of the streets of Philadelphia, I know what it can do with the kids in this community and the communities around the country,” Richmond emphasizes. 

Healthy Hoops is a community-focused program that teaches children and their families how to manage asthma and its side effects. 

Through their collaboration with AmeriHealth Caritas Ohio, and Columbus Rec and Parks, the three-way partnership is targeting underserved communities in Franklin County. 

“Working with children in underserved communities is a large part of our community investment program,” admits Mark Grippi, the Market President for AmeriHealth Caritas Ohio. “Spending time with children where they live and where they play is important to teach them healthy lifestyles that last a lifetime.” 

Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Effects that program organizers say can lead to greater health problems later in life. 

“It’s important that we just don’t just do this at a one time,” Grippi adds. “AmeriHealth Caritas is in the community doing these events consistently, because we want to hammer home the point of healthy lifestyles and education.” 

Through their summer programs like Healthy Hoops, AmeriHealth Caritas Ohio will reach nearly 1,200 kids this summer. 

“Instead of you know trying to be competitive, it’s mostly about having fun and stuff,” says 10-year-old Sienna Mosley of the program. 

“I personally think it’s very important to keep you healthy, but not only that, you can help other’s stay healthy,” adds 12-year-old Destiny Ellenbolt-Smith of what she learned throughout the day. 

For children like Sienna and Destiny, it’s learning healthy lifestyles at a young age, that will help carry positive behaviors into adulthood. 

“That’s what it’s all about, the kids feeling great,” Richmond reminds. “Not us feeling great for them, but for them to feel great about themselves. And we need more of that.” 

The Healthy Hoops program will hold a second session on Wednesday, July 20th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Glenwood Community Center, located at 1888 Fairmont Ave., Columbus, OH 43223. The program is free for children and their families. 

AmeriHealth Caritas Ohio will be putting on more Healthy Hoops programs later this summer and early fall. 

For information on future events, you can visit their website, here.