Bullying prevention program receives honors

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — A bullying prevention program created by Highmark Foundation has been honored by Penn State Children’s Hospital.

At a Children’s Health Advocacy Dinner on Wednesday evening, doctors presented Highmark Foundation with the Community Champion Award. The award recognized excellence in programs that bring awareness to children’s health and wellness issues.

“Bullying touches everything we do,” said Dr. Leslie Walker-Harding, Chair of Pediatrics at Penn State Children’s Hospital. “Bullying is connected directly to health. Things like not going to school, not waking up, depression, anxiety and weight.”

Walker-Harding pointed to Highmark Foundation’s Bullying Prevention Institute, a long standing program that provides bullying prevention resources over many disciplines, from schools and hospitals to other agencies and groups that might encounter children dealing with bullying.

“Eleven years, 400,000 children or more have been touched by their efforts,” said Walker-Harding. “They deserved to be honored for that.”

Guest speaker, Dr. Matthew Masiello, a nationally known expert on bullying prevention and Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center says the Highmark program stands out in the field. Specifically, it shows an effort to highlight how children with certain medical or social issues in their lives can be targets for bullying, while bullying can also lead to increased or totally new medical and mental health conditions that children will carry into adulthood.

“Children who have a chronic disease are more apt to be bullied,” says Masiello. “If you have asthma or you are obese, if you are handicapped in any way. Children in the LGBTQ community are more apt to being bullied.”

Masiello credits the award recipient for acting beyond its role as a large managed care organization, and recognizing that preventing bullying cost the system less than treating the resulting conditions.

“So we are spending more money by not addressing the issue of bullying. These managed care organizations are spending more money to deal with health issues that could be positively affected if they deal with bullying.”

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