April 14, 2011 | Foster City, Calif., and Pittsburgh, Pa. — A new generation of personalized wellness powered by genetic knowledge will be offered to Highmark members and individuals through a partnership between Highmark and Navigenics, the two companies announced today. The first partnership of its kind in the nation between Highmark, one of the country’s largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, and Navigenics, a pioneer in the application of genetic knowledge to improve individual health, aims to apply an integrated approach to health and wellness that is personalized for individuals based upon their genetic risks.
“If we can help our members understand their specific, individual genetic risk factors together with personal health factors such as family history and lifestyle, then we can help them take the right steps to stay healthy and well,” said Steven Nelson, senior vice president of health services strategy, product and marketing at Highmark. “Our hope is that individuals use this program as a preventive, proactive health planning tool to understand their risks and then change their lifestyle or take the necessary medical steps with their doctor to prevent long-term disease.”
Better health lies in delaying or preventing conditions before they develop. The Navigenics program identifies the genetic risk factors of an individual — through DNA analysis using a saliva sample — for health conditions such as cancers, cardiac diseases and Type 2 diabetes. The service also includes a panel on pharmaceutical responses, which reviews 12 medications for potential side effects or dosing considerations. Examples include Plavix, Warfarin and statin medications.
Navigenics selects only health conditions where genetic insight can guide an individual to an informed plan of action. Results are coupled with access to a board-certified genetic counselor, the ability to coordinate with personal physicians and the tools and resources to understand steps to address the identified health risks in conjunction with an individual’s overall health profile.
Highmark will offer the personalized wellness program through its group customer relationships in order for employers to provide a personalized option of health and wellness to their employees.
“The Navigenics personalized approach is particularly meaningful to employers who strive to infuse a ‘culture of health’ across their employee population,” said Vance Vanier, M.D., president and CEO of Navigenics. “Our goal is to heighten the impact of employer-sponsored wellness and prevention programs by giving individuals unprecedented access to knowledge about their unique health risks. We know that this information can be a catalyst for healthier decisions leading to higher quality, longer lives that are free of preventable disease.”
One Highmark employer group, Pittsburgh Technical Institute, has already become a participant in the new program.
“We see this as an exciting opportunity to improve health engagement,” said Nancy Sheppard, director of human resources at the educational institution. “Our organization has a long history of supporting our employees with innovative wellness programs, and we believe that through the introduction of genetic information and a session with a genetic counselor, our employees will not only have the option to gain greater insight into their health, but will be empowered to be more engaged in prevention.”
To help support testing participants who are also Highmark members, Navigenics genetic counselors may refer participants to Highmark-specific resources such as health coaching or online lifestyle improvement programs.
“Highmark offers our members a variety of programs to help them better manage their health,” said Nelson. “From health coaches to comprehensive lifestyle improvement programs to preventive screenings, Highmark understands the value of health prevention and maintenance. Having one more piece of valuable information — your personal genetic makeup — through a personalized health program powered by genomics gives individuals even more information and power to make the right lifestyle and health choices.”
Highmark will not have access to any results of any test purchased through Navigenics. Genetic testing results are also protected under federal law. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 protects Americans from being treated unfairly because of differences in DNA that may affect health. The law prevents DNA information from being used against individuals in health insurance or the workplace.
Also starting today, the program will be offered to individuals through an educational conversation with a trained specialist at six Highmark Direct locations in Pennsylvania.
Navigenics, Inc. develops and commercializes genetics-based products and services to improve individual health and wellness. Navigenics educates and empowers individuals and their physicians by providing clinically actionable, personalized genetic insights about disease risk and medication response to catalyze behavior change and inform clinical decision-making. The company was founded by leading scientists and clinicians, and continues to advance genomic knowledge and adoption of molecular medicine through studies with leading academic centers. Navigenics’ services are available through employer wellness programs and health plans, as well as through physicians and medical centers. Among Navigenics’ investors are Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, Mohr Davidow Ventures and The Procter & Gamble Company. For more information, visit www.navigenics.com.
About Highmark Inc.
Highmark Inc., based in Pittsburgh, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. Highmark serves 4.8 million members in Pennsylvania and West Virginia through the company’s health care benefits business and is one of the largest Blue plans in the nation. Highmark has 19,500 employees across the country. For more than 70 years, Highmark’s commitment to the community has consistently been among the company’s highest priorities as it strives to positively impact the communities where we do business. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.