Staying fit and avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices – such as using alcohol and other drugs – is part of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky’s wellness philosophy.

To help promote healthy behaviors, Anthem has signed on as a major sponsor for Operation UNITE’s 2012 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camps.

Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps provide basketball skills instruction in conjunction with anti-drug and self-esteem messages. In addition, parents and guardians have an opportunity to attend an education program on how to talk to their children about drugs.

“For nearly 75 years, Anthem has served every corner of the state of Kentucky, and so we are keenly aware of the problems stemming from the abuse of prescription drugs in our state,” said Deb Moessner, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky. “As the leading health insurer in Kentucky, we feel a responsibility to improve the health of our communities. We’re happy to sponsor these basketball camps not only to call attention to the problem, but also to provide a positive environment for kids that encourages healthy lifestyles.”

This summer’s five free regional camps, conducted by former University of Kentucky basketball all-star Jeff Sheppard, began June 5, in Morehead and June 7 in Manchester. The remaining camps are scheduled for Martin County (June 18), Whitley County (June 19) and Magoffin County (June 21).

“We are so pleased to have Anthem as a sponsor because it emphasizes the importance of making healthy choices from a young age,” said Karen Kelley, director of UNITE. “Kentucky’s rate of illicit prescription drug use among high school youth was 17 percent higher than the national rate, according to the latest Prescription Drug Trends in Kentucky report.”

“The result of this high rate of drug use has a corresponding increase in the number of treatment admissions and drug overdose deaths,” Kelly added. “We need to provide opportunities to encourage wellness and give out youth alternatives to drug experimentation.”

All youth participants receive a free event T-shirt, regulation basketball, food and water, and be entered into a drawing for two portable basketball goals given away at the conclusion of each camp (must be present to win).

Presented by Phoenix Products, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps are fun, interactive, and provide a safe, drug-free activity where children have an opportunity to interact with positive role models while learning fundamental basketball skills.

Other major sponsors include Codell Construction, Lightyear Network Solutions, Senture, State Senator Robert Stivers, Walmart of Eastern Kentucky and WestCare. Silver sponsors are Dollar Mania (Manchester), First National Bank of Manchester, and J. Shelby Inc. (Clay Circuit Court Clerk James Phillips). Teddy G. Woods, CPA, of Manchester is a Bronze sponsor.

Since 2006, UNITE has conducted 38 regional camps with 5,055 youth participants representing 53 Kentucky counties, 11 other states and one other country.