Shrinking Outside the Box: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s “The Human” Project Inspires Community to Live Healthier

EAGAN, Minn., April 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — He danced. He grooved. He walked. He sweated. And in the end, he did something he wasn’t sure was possible. He got healthy. On Saturday, Twin Cities man Scott Jorgenson, 45, ended his 30 days as “The Human,” a project developed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) as part of the company’s do.® Campaign to “groove your body every day” to achieve better health. After taking more than 500,000 steps – equivalent to roughly 250 miles – and exercising for more than 1,500 minutes with the encouragement of thousands of supporters, Scott stepped outside the box for the final time lighter, stronger, fitter and with healthy habits to last a lifetime.

“This has been an amazing experience, a life changing journey really.  I’m happy to report I’ve lost 27 pounds – from 254 to 227 – in the last 30 days by doing simple daily exercises and eating more nutritious foods,” said Scott. “Best of all, I’ve lowered my cholesterol 110 points so it’s now in the normal range! I’ve also improved my blood pressure 10 points. I feel amazing, have more energy than ever, and I’ve learned many healthy habits to take home with me.”

The goal of Blue Cross’ The Human project was to showcase how a regular person, with support, can make basic changes – such as walking and substituting more fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks – and significantly improve their health. Not unlike many people, when Scott started The Human project, he struggled with even light aerobic activity – barely making it through his first 10-minute “voteable do” of jumping jacks. More than 60 percent of Minnesotans are overweight or obese, putting themselves at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis and colon cancer. Now Scott has the energy and stamina to “do” daily and go for long walks, plus he has the discipline and knowledge to eat better and make overall healthier choices.

“The Blue Cross team is extremely proud of Scott and his accomplishments through this project. These excellent results have dramatically lowered Scott’s risk for many diseases,” said Marc Manley, M.D., chief prevention officer for Blue Cross. “But the main message here is you don’t need a glass box. With support from the community, family and friends, people can make small changes in their activity levels and eating habits that can lead to better health.”

In just 30 days, the project amassed more than 4,300 Facebook fans from 19 different countries and inspired many of them to take a look at their own health. Messages posted by fans to The Human Doing’s Facebook page included: “After checking out your project yesterday, I walked to the grocery store instead of driving. I’m inspired!” and “Watching you and reading your posts lit that spark in me! I have been walking more, moving more, and even tried couch push-ups last night. Thanks.”

Scott took on the project with enthusiasm, participating in activities such as Zumba, snorkeling and hip-hop dance, and more than 100,000 supporters voted and watched it all in person, on webcam and through daily video blogs. He also led crowds at the mall in activities to move more. After just one week of eating better, Scott’s food cravings shifted from salty snacks and carbs to fruits and spinach salads. These changes inspired many of Scott’s supporters to take their own first step towards better health.

“It’s hard to put into words how thankful I am to everyone who has encouraged me on this life changing experience, I am so grateful,” said Scott. “I couldn’t have changed my behaviors and lived so publicly without all of the support.”

Going forward, supporters of The Human will be able to cheer on each other and share tips about their own healthy lifestyle journey by taking the “I do, too” pledge on the Blue Cross do Campaign Facebook page at There will be physical activity tips, healthy recipes, and other resources posted for those who are inspired to “groove your body every day.” Additionally, Blue Cross is donating $1 – up to $5,000 total – for every person who posts “I do, too!” to the do Campaign Facebook page through April 22nd to benefit the local American Heart Association’s annual Heart Walk.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s do Campaign has raised awareness about the importance of physical activity and healthy eating since 2004. Through television commercials and community programs, Blue Cross has encouraged people to “groove your body every day” and eat better in order to improve overall health. The Human project allowed Scott to lead by example and inspire others to start doing. As part of Blue Cross’ Prevention Minnesota(SM) initiative, the do Campaign and The Human project are funded entirely by Blue Cross’ settlement proceeds from its historic lawsuit against the tobacco companies. To learn more about the do Campaign visit Other programs and services Blue Cross offers to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight include: sponsoring the public bicycle-sharing program Nice Ride Minnesota; funding community projects to improve access to healthy foods; supporting policies like Complete Streets to make communities more walkable and bikeable; and providing tools on that can help members achieve a healthy weight. For more information about Blue Cross’ many prevention efforts, go to

do.® is a registered trademark of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Healthy Living Goes Social With OptumizeMe™; Free New App Available Now For iPhone® and Android Devices

Golden Valley, Minn. (March 21, 2011) — OptumHealth, one of the nation’s largest health and wellness companies, today announced the release of its OptumizeMe mobile application for iPhone® and AndroidTM devices. Initially launched for Windows® Phone 7 devices, OptumizeMe is now also available for free on these two widely used mobile operating systems.

With the OptumizeMe application, people can create and challenge each other to fitness competitions and trade both encouragement and “digs” along the way. Users can network with friends using the app or link to their existing social networks to create new fitness challenges. The application tracks their progress on challenges and rewards them with virtual badges as they achieve their goals.

“OptumizeMe helps people connect with their friends to attain their health and fitness goals using social media in a fun, interactive way,” said Rob Webb, CEO of OptumHealth’s Care Solutions business. “As our society shifts toward socially connected healthy living, OptumizeMe can serve as the perfect app to help people get the results they want.”

To extend its reach to other popular social networks, OptumizeMe is integrated with FacebookSM, which has 200 million mobile users1. With OptumizeMe, users can invite friends from their social networks and share healthy doses of motivation or create friendly competitions to achieve their health and fitness goals. This user-friendly app gives people the tools they need to create, join and track their own health and fitness progress through health-inspired challenges.

Future versions of the app will enable users to connect with virtual personal health coaches, making the application even more powerful in helping people achieve their health and fitness goals.

According to a recent New England Journal of Medicine report2, healthy behavior actually spreads through social connections. Whether an individual wants to run a race, cut down on salt intake or exercise for five minutes a day, OptumizeMe can help rally the support and motivation needed to succeed. To keep users going strong, OptumizeMe also awards virtual badges for actions such as achieving goals and creating challenges.

The OptumizeMe mission of better health through social interaction will be featured at the 2011 international CTIA Wireless Conference in Orlando, Fla., March 22-24. At CTIA, OptumHealth will conduct an onsite Walking Challenge open to all CTIA attendees. Conference attendees can sign up for the challenge, motivate their peers and track their steps through OptumizeMe. Those who stride the farthest will be rewarded with an iPhone or Android mobile device, an iPad® or an Amazon KindleTM.

About OptumHealth
OptumHealth helps nearly 60 million Americans navigate the health care system, finance their health care needs and achieve their health and well-being goals. The company’s personalized health advocacy and engagement programs tap a unique combination of capabilities that encompass care solutions, behavioral solutions, collaborative care, and financial services. For more information about OptumHealth, visit

1 Source:
2 Source: Christakis, N. The New England Journal of Medicine, July 26, 2007; vol. 357: pp 370-379

Health Net Federal Services Launches Facebook Page

Health Net Federal Services, LLC, part of the Government Contracts segment of Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT) and managed care support contractor for the TRICARE North Region, has launched a Facebook page to connect with its military service members, families and customers it serves in a new way.

“We are excited about the opportunity to engage with our beneficiaries through social media, an evolving vehicle of choice to communicate conveniently and in real time,” said Steve Tough, president, Health Net Federal Services. “We hope this serves as yet another avenue for beneficiaries to retrieve the latest TRICARE North information.”

On its Facebook page, Health Net Federal Services will highlight TRICARE news, benefit changes, healthy living tips and stories that interest its military families. Specifically, this month, Health Net Federal Services will highlight Month of the Military Child, alcohol awareness, and tips to keep military families sailing smoothly through a Permanent Change of Station.

Throughout May, posts will focus on Emergent and Urgent Care, Behavioral Health, Mother’s Day, Military Family Appreciation Month, Armed Forces Day and Asthma. Health Net Federal Services invites all TRICARE North Region beneficiaries, providers and its partners to follow it on Facebook.

To become a Fan of Health Net Federal Services, visit:

About Health Net Federal Services: Health Net Federal Services, LLC, a subsidiary of Health Net, Inc., has a long history of providing cost-effective, quality managed health care programs for government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. As the managed care support contractor for the TRICARE North Region, Health Net provides health care services to nearly 3.0 million uniformed services beneficiaries, active and retired, and their families.

HealthSpring Becomes First Major Medicare Plan to Establish Facebook Presence.

Medicare plan HealthSpring today became the first major Medicare Advantage plan to establish a presence on popular social media site Facebook. “Our research tells us that many Medicare beneficiaries – and even more of their children or younger individuals soon becoming eligible for Medicare – use the Internet regularly and are looking to the web for information about key decisions such as choosing a Medicare plan,” HealthSpring Vice President of Marketing Mark Tinsey said. “We are excited to expand our online presence through Facebook and provide further access to information for prospective members and the general public.”

HealthSpring said it will use Facebook to establish a branding presence and provide visitors with basic information about the company. The site features video clips and photos from the company’s current advertising campaign and directs visitors to HealthSpring’s website or phone lines for more information.

Establishing a Facebook presence required approval through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees Medicare plans such as HealthSpring, the company said. “We were surprised to find when we approached CMS about Facebook that no other plans were trying to do this,” Tinsey said. “I’m certain it will soon become common practice, and we’re pleased to have been able to work through the process with CMS to get approval and establish compliance guidelines for how Facebook can be used.”

“We think it’s important to provide as many ways as possible for the public to learn about HealthSpring,” Tinsey said. “Particularly as baby boomers become eligible for Medicare, it just makes sense that Facebook would be one of those ways.”

HealthSpring’s Facebook page is located at:

HealthSpring is based in Nashville, Tenn., and is one of the country’s largest Medicare Advantage coordinated care plans. HealthSpring currently owns and operates Medicare Advantage plans in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas and also offers a national stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan. For more information, visit

SOURCE: HealthSpring

Humana Develops Social Media Tool Combining Twitter Search with Mapping Function.

Humana (NYSE: HUM), a Fortune 100 health-benefits company, has developed a social media tool that allows users to track Twitter conversations as and where they happen and it is one of the first tools to incorporate Twitters newly released geo-tagging feature.

twitterThe tool, called the Tweet Positioning System, or TPS, is known in social media circles as a mashup. It merges functions of Twitter Search with Google Maps to provide a real-time geographic view of micro-blogging conversations. TPS is being offered for free to interested parties at

Users can enter any search term into the TPS search box. The tool then links to Twitter, which recently released a software update allowing users to opt to share their current location. Drawing data from this geo-tagging feature, a map automatically appears showing hot spots where Twitter conversations are being held on that topic at that moment, whether its around the United States or around the world. Users can then click on the hotspots to view or even join conversations (if they are Twitter members).

Humana built the tool to gain insights in areas such as product development, event management and regional sales and marketing. In the spirit of transparency, it decided to share the tool with other users. The tool will continue to evolve based on user feedback. Several new features have already been added, such as the ability to see the volume of tweets over time for any given search, and the ability to add a widget (showing a map of your favorite conversation) to your blog or Facebook page.

At Humana, were interested in engaging communities of like-minded people around concepts like health and wellness, said Greg Matthews, a director in Humanas Innovation Center, which developed the tool. We originally developed the TPS tool with this in mind, but we quickly realized it might have applications beyond that. A small business, for example, might want to see what people in their market are saying about them or their industry to help them improve their products or services.

If nothing else, its fun to play with the tool to see where people are talking about the things that matter to you, such as your favorite food or favorite team, he added. The geographic differences can also be pretty fascinating as you try to figure out why a certain topic resonates in one area, but not in another.

As with all mashups, the tool has not been officially endorsed by either Twitter or Google.

About Humana

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is one of the nations largest publicly traded health and specialty benefits companies, with approximately 10.3 million medical members and 7.3 million specialty-benefit members. Humana is a full-service benefits solutions company, offering a wide array of health and specialty benefit plans for employer groups, government programs and individuals.

More information regarding Humana is available to investors via the Investor Relations page of the companys Web site at

Half of Voters Favor Obama Health Plan. But What is it?

With each passing day, I am becoming more convinced that a good many of the people who are engaging in the “debate” about healthcare reform have no clue about the issues that the Obama administration and Congress are wrestling with.

Last evening I logged on to a White House Forum on Healthcare Reform that was being conducted on Facebook. Not surprisingly, most of the participants in this chat room environment we posting comments favoring the Obama health plan. I don’t have a problem with people taking sides on an important issue like this, but most of the participants seem to lack knowledge of what is now being debated in Congress.

While I participated, a large number of the comments were directed at the sole person in the chat room who seemed to be challenging the need for reform, saying that he had a health savings account and it lowered his premiums and covered him for the unexpected and the catastrophic – a pretty good definition of insurance if you ask me.

However, this guy’s logic was met a myriad of slogans and catch phrases that indicated to me that the contributors were misinformed about the plans that are making their way through Congress. In fact they were making up their own version of what healthcare reform would look like.

Most comments, in my opinion, reflected a belief that there should to be a government-run single-payer system, and it ought to be free. One theme running through the posts was that of not wanting to have an insurance company telling them and their doctors what is, or is not, covered. I tried squaring that with having a government-run system, but my logic couldn’t take me there.

Thank goodness, that is not at all what the administration and Congress has been talking about. In fact, compared to where a lot of the people participating in the forum were, the bill being marked-up by the HELP Committee in the Senate sounds almost reasonable, despite its trillion dollar price tag and the threatened public plan option.

Having participated in this online experiment in democracy in action, I was not surprised when I read this morning that a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 50% of U.S. voters at least somewhat favor the Democrats’ health care reform plan, while 45% are at least somewhat opposed.

This in response to a question that did not in any way describe the plan as it stands to date. It was simply presented as the health care reform proposed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

What was interesting about the survey results is that while the overall numbers favor the plan, those with strong opinions tilt the other way. Twenty-four percent (24%) strongly favor the plan, but 34% are strongly opposed.

This tells me that these are the people who have taken at least some time to study the issues and learn about what the administration and Congressional leaders are really proposing including the projected costs and the proposed means of covering those costs.

Congress will reconvene on July 6. Hopefully, over the upcoming long weekend, more Americans will take time to read a newspaper article or simply Google “healthcare reform” and read what comes up. I think most will be surprised when they learn the details of the product that Congress is producing, and the price they will pay for it.

Survey Suggests Role for Social Media in Healthcare.

There has been much chatter lately on Twitter and in the blogosphere about the use of social media in healthcare. According to a story written by Les Masterson and appearing in HealthLeaders Media, use of this new technology may be just what the doctor ordered.

It seems that The Microsoft Health Engagement Survey 2009, conducted by Kelton Research, shows that most people still don’t visit their health plans’ websites or believe their insurers support their health. Still, survey respondents say they are interested in their health plans connecting with them via e-mail and phone for electronic coaching. The key, they say is that they want those services integrated into their lives.

Masterson points out in his article that the consumerism movement with insurers and employers pushing more out-of-pocket costs onto members has led insurers to invest in online components in hopes of creating more educated consumers. However, nearly half of those surveyed think health plans only support them when they need a doctor.

According to Masterson, the disconnect occurs as a result of consumers simply not visiting their health insurers’ websites. Though 82% of insurers provide websites with health and wellness information, nearly three-quarters of respondents visited their insurers’ websites fewer than six times a year. That includes 16% who never visited their insurers’ sites and another 16% who only went on the sites one or two times in the past year.

The survey revealed that of those who actually visited the carrier’s website, nearly half went to find provider lists or coverage information. Only one-third checked out information on health and wellness and this was mostly after a diagnosis had occurred. In other words, they were not being proactive.

So with health plans and employers pushing to control chronic diseases, how do they communicate wellness messages to their members? There are some hints in the survey results. First, the vast majority of people surveyed said healthcare technological solutions are inviting, and secondly, most respondents said they were interested in communicating with their insurer through e-mail.

In fact, more than half of the respondents said they are interested in using e-mails to ask questions about benefits and coverage; receive feedback about their health; and get encouragement, reminders, and advice on diet and exercise.

In other words, people seem to want to communicate with their health plans using technology, but it must be done as part of their normal use of the media.

Does this mean that I am going to “Friend” my health plan on Facebook so I can receive a reminder to have my annual checkup while I am checking out what my friends and family are up to? Why not? Should I “Follow” my health plan on Twitter so that I can get tips on dealing with the summer heat? Sure. Would I read an e-mail message from my health plan and click to a link containing my latest EOB and tips on how to save money on my next prescription. Definitely.

Hopefully, health plans will use this research as an incentive to continue to push forward on the use of e-mail and social media to better communicate with their members and to help them control chronic illnesses that can become so expensive when they go unmanaged. Sure, there are privacy challenges, but it is worth working to overcome these challenges to reach members with pertinent and timely messages.

New Marketing Tool Captures Brands’ “Share of Voice” on the Social Web.

When my call went out a few weeks ago to find health plans that were using social media as a means of engaging their members, one of the people who got in touch with me was Gretchen Miller of Vitrue, Inc.

Gretchen was quick to tell me that, while she was not with a health plan, she did have a tool that could tell me which health plans are doing well in this space.

Gretchen is with a firm called Vitrue, a social media marketing company for the Fortune 1,000, that provides a comprehensive social media marketing approach with a core technology platform to help brands launch campaigns, communities, Facebook applications, and just maintain an overall social presence on the web.

Gretchen told me that Vitrue had recently launched the Vitrue Social Media Index (SMI), which is designed to capture a brand’s share of voice on the social web. She told me that if I could give her a list of health plans that are using social media , she could give me measurements of their success in terms of their being present on sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and others.

Gretchen went on to explain that many of her firm’s clients struggle with social media issues such as:

  • Social media is too new and changing too fast for me to understand how to use it?
  • I know social media is important to my brand, but how to measure it?
  • There is too much data, what does it all mean?

The SMI was created to help answer some of these questions.

Gretchen said, “SMI is a simple, yet powerful tool to help marketers understand how their brand stacks up to their peers/competitors in the social space. It includes data from the most important social media sites on the web including blogs, video and photo sharing sites, social networks, and micro-blogs.”

But, SMI is more than just a snapshot in time; Gretchen said that it also provides trends, allowing brands to see how “social share of voice” fluctuates based on marketing campaigns, competitors’ activities, and external events. You can see tool at

So how do various health plans stack up in their social networking activity? I provided Gretchen with a list of health plans. Some of them I have written about in this blog regarding their use of social media. Others were brands that I selected because they are well known names nationally or regionally. The chart below shows how they stacked up.


What the SMI tool found was that, right now, Humana has a commanding presence on the social web with this competitive set.

You can also dig in and see Humana’s SMI score as of today, by going to:

Here is the breakout on where Humana has a presence on social media sites as of February 6, 2009:

  • 47.13% video sharing sites
  • 28.81% micro-blogs
  • 2.73% photo sharing sites
  • 9.87% on blogs
  • 11.48% social networks

Fun stuff and a great tool for bring some classical marketing measurements to these fast evolving new media.

If you are looking for more insight into social brands check out The Vitrue 100 – Top Social Brands of 2008 at Any guesses as to which brand was #1?

CIGNA Uses Social Networks to Teach Health and Supply Clean Drinking Water.

drinking-waterI recently had the chance to catch up with Karen Kocher, Chief Learning Officer at CIGNA, and asked her about how the large health plan was using social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter to engage their members to become healthier.

“CIGNA has been doing quite a bit,” Kocher said, “to educate people to manage their own health.” She noted that CIGNA has made use of social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace to help get people to be more aware of their own health and to convey a CIGNA brand image that is more consumer-focused and personal.

“CIGNA has evolved into a health service company, and an important part of our service mission is to help people better understand and manage their health,” Kocher said.

To help accomplish this overall communications strategy, Kocher said, that CIGNA has used several social networking sites to draw visitors to a web-based game that allows winners to provide a full-day’s supply of clean drinking water to a child in a developing country. To win, one only needs to answer correctly three questions related to health and/or health insurance terminology.

When I played the game, I found that I could answer most of the questions easily enough on the first try, though I did miss a few. But, what’s more interesting, is that I felt myself compelled to keep playing the game a racking up more and more days of clean water for the children.

It seems that others have felt the same way. Kocher said that the program began in September 2008, and has exceeded expectations by over 400%. To date, 56,756 days of water have been donated meaning that people have answered correctly over 150,000 questions. Also significant is that 85% of the traffic came from Facebook and other online referrals.

“Phase I of our program, Kocher said,” was intended to engage people in a fun and meaningful activity that allowed them to learn more about health. Phase II, which will launch in 2009, will be designed to build on that knowledge and bring in the wealth component.”

By the “wealth component,” Kocher is referring to an effort to help educate people about the cost of healthcare and to begin to engage them in learning to make better decisions about how they spend their health care dollars.

In the meantime, I am headed back to the Water Challenge game to see if I might be able to add a few days more to the supply of clean drinking water. Who knows, I might even learn something while I am there. Join me at:

Winning the Battle of the Bulge can be Harder than you Think.

Marty's Current Tummytar.

My Current Bellytar.

I have been invited to play a game on Facebook called Battle of the Bulge. No, this is not some WWII adventure game. It is a game where I try to keep extra weight off my waistline. Ah, sort of like real life.

I started out by answering a few humorously posed questions about my eating and exercise habits and my body type. From there, I was presented with a slightly overweight Avatar (aka the Bellytar) whose weight I must now manage by making good choices when presented with diet and exercise options. To make it more fun, I can share some of my losses and gains with my Facebook friends who are also playing the game. And if I am really successful, I can end up on the Champions of Chunk page were I am ranked with other top players based on the number of days that I have been able to maintain my ideal weight. Right now the leader has a string of 99 days going and a very buff looking Bellytar. Im jealous.

So who is behind this slightly addictive and educational Facebook application? It is actually the Louisville, Kentucky – based health care company, Humana, Inc., though there is no mention of the company on the game app.

Greg Matthews, director of consumer innovations at Humana says, 2009 is the year of the game. The consumer innovations team is working on ways to use social media to get people more engaged in leading healthier lives.

What we are attempting to do, Greg said, is change peoples behavior by taking something that they are already having fun doing, like playing with Friends on Facebook, and making it more healthy.

Battle of the Bulge, which launched to the public just before Christmas, already has over 700 players ranging from Microsoft employees to Major League Soccer players.

Greg explained that the Battle of the Bulge game on Facebook is part of an ongoing exploration process the Humana innovations team has undertaken to discover the best ways to use evolving forms of media to engage an increasingly web-savvy public.

So, after playing the game a few times over the last couple of days, I have drawn a few conclusions that seem to also apply to real life.

  1. Getting to my ideal body weight is not going to be easy. Just when I think I have it all figured out, I hit a roadblock by making a poor choice.
  2. Getting to my ideal weight is dependent on several factors including diet, exercise, and even the behavior of my friends.
  3. Once I reach my ideal weight it will take dedication and consistency to stay there. The good news is that I should have figured out the correct answers to all the questions by then, so it will mainly mean that I need to hit the site application once a day (like a gym) to stay where I need to be. But watch out! I am sure that missing a few days will have consequences.

Well, if I am any indication, this stuff can be effective. Now if you will excuse me, I need to shed a few more pounds. Humm can any one tell which burns more calories: A) planting begonias or 2) polishing my phatmobile with a diaper. Ahgg I dont feel much like doing either one. Do I smell pizza?