(Sept. 27) Adults, for years, have been induced to exercise, quit smoking and take better care of themselves through insurance rate breaks.

Now, insurers are training their sights on the young, and fruits and vegetables are central to their strategy.

Insurance groups are taking long looks at scientific studies that trumpet the life-giving potential of diets rich in fruits and vegetables. Such studies, along with the reformatted U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 5 a Day initiative, together with an obesity problem run rampant among America’s young, have prompted at least one insurer to launch wellness programs with kids in mind.

One such initiative is KidPower, a program offered free of charge by Albany, N.Y.-based Capital District Physicians Health Plan, a health insurer covering 29 counties in upstate New York and seven counties in Vermont.

KidPower’s foundation is a user-friendly fitness workbook, food charts — including the redesigned Food Guide Pyramid — and classes that teach kids about nutrition and exercise.

KidPower, a 16-month-old program that currently covers only the Albany area, already has more than 600 children involved, said Mary Ann Roberts, the initiative’s health educator.

“Many more children develop high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes early in their teens, and these are adult diseases,” Roberts said.

Fruit and vegetable consumption is a key ingredient of the program, Roberts said, adding that participants can track their daily intake of various foods.

The long-term economic benefits of programs like KidPower likely will be dramatic, Roberts said.

“We know that our first goal is to get our members healthy but, in turn, if we can do some of these issues, we can reduce some of the costs and pass those down to our members,” said Kristin Marshall, a Capital District spokeswoman. “When certain conditions get out of control, you see costs rise. So, it’s a double benefit.”

The organization plans to do an economic-impact study down the road, Roberts said.

Look for more such initiatives across the country, Marshall said.

“I think other plans are recognizing this, and we had calls from all over the country from parents and YMCAs to schools and they were all inquiring about our program,” she said. “We can tell from the outpouring that the need is out there, and it would really behoove other plans if they haven’t embarked on a program like this to start one.”