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 www.optumhealth.com.

1 Source: http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats
2 Source: Christakis, N. The New England Journal of Medicine, July 26, 2007; vol. 357: pp 370-379

OptumHealth Debuts OptumizeMe Fitness App to Help Microsoft® Windows Phone 7 Users Connect and Compete for Better Health

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– OptumHealth, one of the nation’s largest health and wellness companies, today announced the release of the OptumizeMe mobile application. Designed exclusively for the many new Windows® Phone 7 devices, OptumizeMe helps people pursue their health goals through their own online social networks, where they can track their progress and issue fun fitness challenges to their friends, family and coworkers.

OptumizeMe, selected by Microsoft as a Premier Launch App, is designed to maximize the features of the Windows Phone 7 platform. It is available now, free of charge, at the Windows® Phone Marketplace. The app is part of the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 showcase.

With OptumizeMe, 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 also uses the Windows Phone 7’s location capabilities to help fitness enthusiasts locate and join open challenges happening near them.

“If you’re the kind of person who lives life on the go, wants to increase your fitness and can’t resist a good challenge, OptumizeMe is the app for you,” said Rob Webb, CEO of OptumHealth Care Solutions. “It makes living a healthy lifestyle easier and more fun for people with Windows Phone 7 mobile devices by creating connections with friends who share similar fitness goals. Most of us already use our social networks to stay in touch with each other, so why not use them to share the experience of getting healthier together?”

According to a recent New England Journal of Medicine report, healthy behavior actually spreads through social connections. OptumizeMe links with online social networks like Facebook to make healthy activity a social activity. For example, OptumizeMe can post updates to a user’s Facebook wall to allow friends to monitor the person’s progress and post messages of support.

“Windows Phone 7 is backed by a rich developer ecosystem that is creating a variety of quality apps and games designed to help people get the most out of their phone,” said Todd Brix, senior director, Windows Phone Marketplace, Microsoft Corp. “OptumizeMe is a great example of the innovative apps available on Windows Phone Marketplace that take advantage of Windows Phone 7’s unique features and design.”

Sixty mobile operators in 30 countries will offer Windows Phone 7 mobile devices, available in the United States Nov. 8.

About OptumHealth

OptumHealth helps individuals 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 public sector solutions, care solutions, behavioral solutions, specialty benefits and financial services. Serving nearly 60 million people, OptumHealth is one of the nation’s largest health and wellness businesses, and is a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNHNews) company. More information about OptumHealth can be found at www.optumhealth.com.

UPMC Health Plan Offers Brain Fitness Software to Improve Health.

UPMC Health Plan of Pittsburgh announced today that it has signed an agreement to offer award-winning brain fitness software from Posit Science, at no cost, to all UPMC for Life Medicare Advantage members. This brain training program is a new part of the UPMC Health Plan wellness services, which focus on both mind and body fitness.

The brain fitness software, known as the Insight(TM) Brain Fitness Program, is a suite of five game-like computer exercises that make brain training challenging and effective. The program engages the brain’s natural plasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire itself) to improve basic brain function.

Michael Merzenich, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science, was recently elected to the Institute of Medicine for his work showing that operations of the adult brain can be significantly improved with the right kind of mental stimulation. Posit Science technology has now been vetted in more than 60 peer-reviewed articles in science and medical journals, showing it improves speed of processing, attention, memory, and quality of life measures.

“We are excited that UPMC Health Plan chose our brain fitness training as a way to revitalize the aging brain,” said Dr. Merzenich. “Research trials have shown that spending consistent time on these exercises helps users think quicker, focus better, and remember more of what’s going on in their everyday lives.”

In addition to improving cognitive health, brain fitness exercise – much like physical exercise – can also improve general health outcomes. Recent studies show the Posit Science exercises improve functional independence, self-confidence, and health-related quality of life. A report funded by the National Institutes of Health indicates that use of the exercises should also reduce health care costs.

“Brain health is important because it affects what matters most – quality of life, emotional health, relationships, everyday tasks, work, and hobbies,” said Cathy Batteer, UPMC Health Plan’s vice president, Medicare. “Fitness isn’t just about your body anymore. We care about overall mind-body wellness, so we are thrilled to be the first health plan in this region to provide our members with this brain fitness software.”

About UPMC Health Plan:

UPMC Health Plan, the second-largest health insurer in western Pennsylvania, is owned by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), one of the nation’s top-ranked health systems. For more information, visit www.upmchealthplan.com.

About Posit Science:

Posit Science is the leader in delivering clinically proven brain fitness software. The company combines breakthrough research and a focus on great customer experiences to create products that are engaging and help users think faster, focus better and remember more. For more information, visit www.PositScience.com.

Source: UPMC Health Plan

Web Site: http://www.upmchealthplan.com/

HealthFitness Attains NCQA Wellness & Health Promotion Accreditation.

Health Fitness Corporation (NYSE Amex: FIT), a leading provider of integrated employee health and productivity management solutions, today announced it has received Wellness & Health Promotion Accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), a private, non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality.

healthfitnesslogoNCQA Wellness & Health Promotion Accreditation is a nationally recognized evaluation that purchasers and consumers can use to assess wellness and health promotion programs. NCQA Wellness & Health Promotion Accreditation comprehensively evaluates key areas of health promotion, including how wellness programs are implemented in the workplace, how services such as health coaching are provided to help eligible individuals develop skills to make healthy choices and how sensitive health information of eligible individuals is properly safeguarded.

NCQA Wellness & Health Promotion Accreditation standards are purposely set high to encourage wellness and health promotion organizations to continually enhance their quality measures. No other comparable evaluation exists for wellness and health promotion programs.

“HealthFitness works everyday to provide the highest level of service to the people we serve,” said Gregg O. Lehman, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, HealthFitness. “We are proud that our programs and services to support and enhance employee health and well-being have met the standards for NCQA Wellness & Health Promotion Accreditation.”

“NCQA’s Wellness & Health Promotion Accreditation requires organizations to demonstrate their compliance with well-defined standards and quality measures,” said Margaret E. O’Kane, NCQA President. “The NCQA seal will provide employers and consumers with the information they need to choose the best program in their markets.”

About HealthFitness

HealthFitness is a leading provider of integrated employee health improvement services to Fortune 500 companies, the health care industry and individual consumers. With 30-plus years of experience, HealthFitness partners with employers to effectively manage health care and productivity costs by improving individual health and well-being. HealthFitness provides a portfolio of health and fitness management solutions, including best-in-class integration, INSIGHT Health Risk Assessments, screenings, EMPOWERED(TM) Health Coaching, and fitness facility design and management. For more information on HealthFitness, visit www.hfit.com.

Source: HealthFitness

Obesity Trends Will Snuff Out Health Benefits Gained by Decline in Smoking Rates, Study Says.

University of Michigan and Harvard Researchers Find That The U.S. Population Won’t Live Longer Because Even Though They’ve Quit Smoking, More are Overweight

If obesity trends continue, the negative effect on the health of the U.S. population will overtake the benefits gained from declining smoking rates, according to a study by UM and Harvard researchers published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Obesity plays a large role in life expectancy,” said co-author Allison B. Rosen, assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. “Despite the fact that we are smoking less, body-mass indexes (BMI) are going up. These increases in obesity are overtaking these changes in smoking behaviors.”

Using a technical analysis that includes forecasting future trends based on historical data, researchers found that despite declines in smoking, the remaining life expectancy of a typical 18-year-old would be held back by 0.71 years by the year 2020 because of the increased body-mass index of the general population. The researchers also looked at quality of life. That same 18-year-old could expect to give up 0.91 years of increased quality-adjusted life expectancy.

If all U.S. adults became nonsmokers of normal weight by 2020, their life expectancy would be forecast to increase by 3.76 years or 5.16 quality-adjusted years.

However, the researchers say the study’s results don’t imply that life expectancy will fall – more likely, life expectancy will continue to rise due to other factors, but less rapidly than it otherwise would.

“In the past 15 years, smoking rates have declined by 20 percent, but obesity rates have increased by 48 percent,” says lead author Susan T. Stewart, Ph.D., a Harvard University research associate for the joint project of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Harvard’s Program for Health System Improvement. “If past trends continue, nearly half of the population – 45 percent – is projected to be obese by 2020.”

In addition to better managing clinical risk factors such as blood sugar among those who are obese, effective public health efforts are needed to address the roots of obesity, like sedentary lifestyles, the widespread availability of high-calorie food in large portions and reduced time for the preparation of food at home, says David Cutler, Ph.D., another co-author of this study and professor of Economics at Harvard University, as well as a research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Rosen said this study does not indicate that people are getting heavier because they are not smoking. The weight gain associated with quitting smoking is temporary and thus not significant enough to drive the rising trend in increased BMIs.

Public health efforts to discourage smoking have worked, and a similar effort could help turn around obesity rates, Rosen said. Many weight control interventions have proven successful and their use should be encouraged.

“Losing weight is harder than quitting smoking. People don’t have to smoke to live. People have to eat to live,” she said.

“The hypothetical scenario of having everyone a non-smoker of normal weight may be unachievable. But these results show the dramatic toll that both smoking and obesity can have on both the length of life and the quality of life.”

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the Harvard Interfaculty Program for Health Systems Improvement and the Lasker Foundation.

Source: University of Michigan Health System

BlueCross Encourages Tennesseans to Join the Movement for Life.

Innovation Alert!

A revolution is going on in Tennessee. It starts with a few small stepstaking the stairs instead of the elevator, playing catch with the kids, parking a little further away from work. Eventually, these small steps can turn into bigger onesgoing to the gym, riding a bike, competing in a sport. These activities are part of a new movementthe Movement for Life.

BCBST_logoWith Tennessee as one of the least healthy states in America, ranking 44th out of 50, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee recognizes the need for change and has launched a new campaign to encourage Tennesseans to improve their health and help reduce this statistic.

Changing our lifestyles to live healthier lives is a big step for anyone, said Janet McConnell, director of brand strategy and new media for BlueCross. We can all take little steps and make small changes to improve our own health and as a result, the health of Tennessee.

Movement for Life is about the everyday, incremental changes that lead to more substantial lifestyle improvements, eventually to a healthier life for all Tennesseans. The campaign includes television, radio, print ads and online advertising, as well as a Web site, MVMTforLife.com.

The interactive site provides all visitors a forum to make healthy proclamations in four categories including weight loss, fitness, smoking cessation and healthy community. Its designed for all participants, not just BlueCross members, to declare their health and wellness goals and to serve as motivation and inspiration for each other.

BlueCross members can benefit from an additional featurea virtual coach that will provide daily or weekly health tips on these four topics. Messages can be delivered via e-mail, a desktop widget, mobile text messaging and Facebook wall posts.

People can also become a fan of the Movement for Life on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/MVMTforLife/146232343004) and follow it on Twitter (www.twitter.com/MVMTforLife) to further encourage health and wellness conversations as well as communicating information about community-based sponsorships and programs.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the state’s oldest and largest not-for-profit health plan, serving nearly 3 million Tennesseans. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on financing affordable health care coverage and providing peace of mind for all Tennesseans. BlueCross serves its members by delivering quality health care products, services and information. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.bcbst.com.

Who Will Lead?

A headline on Life and Health News this morning caught my eye. It read, “Who will Lead? It referred, of course, to the void left in the Senate by the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. The article pointed out that Kennedy’s death could affect the leadership of the Senate Banking Committee as well as of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and discussed the possible changes in the committee leadership roles.

But, this headline got me thinking. Who will lead the healthcare reform movement going forward? I nominate President Barack Obama. Not for his tendencies to respond to massive problems with even more massive spending programs, but because of his ability to inspire and lead people.

I am convinced that we will never solve the healthcare crisis in the U.S. until we can get our citizens to take some personal responsibility for their health status. With obesity rates in 31 states exceeding 25 percent, we are literally a country headed for a heart attack. There is no amount of spending that will be able to change this medical outcome.

What can change this outcome is to get people moving. Get people out of their cars and SUVs and onto bikes and sidewalks. Get people out of the fast food drive through at lunch time and into the gym.

And, who better to lead this charge than Obama. He is clearly the fittest president we have had in years. He is a role model for millions of Americans and he and his wife, Michelle, can lead by their words and their actions.

Kennedy made being fit cool.

During the 1960’s President John F. Kennedy made being fit cool. It is once again time to engage the entire country in a fitness challenge. Maybe this time instead of the touch football games in the yard, it will be three-on-three basketball in the driveway or the park. Who cares? Just move!

The country needs to be told the truth. “Listen, we are running out of money and cannot afford to take care of you when you make yourself sick by your over eating and lack of activity. So what we are going to do instead is help you get healthy and stay healthy.”

Now is the time to scrap the universal healthcare approaches of the past 40 years that focus only on providing coverage, and to look to a future of delivering health by encouraging personal responsibility for avoiding the avoidable. If we can do this, I think, the money will be there for everyone in this country who needs basic medical care and to provide treatment for all health issues that are not the predictable outcomes of lifestyle choices.

Barack Obama is the person who can do this. He is the person who should do this. Ted Kennedy passed the torch to him last summer in Denver. He is the future and he should use his position to shape policy that makes sense for the realities of today and the future.

Health Plan Members Receive Incentive to Work Out

Here’s an idea worth noting — a health plan that is actually helping its member stay healthy.

The Minnetonka, Minn. – basedMedica has announced that effective immediately, more than 16,500 Medica MinnesotaCare members are eligible for a program whereby those who participate in a Fit Choices program will get a $20 monthly membership credit just for exercising at a participating health club location eight or more days per month.

Medica members will present their Medica ID card atparticipating Fit Choices by Medica health clubs and the club helps the member enroll in the program and tracks their attendance. Qualifying members then receive a $20 credit toward their health club monthly dues.

Data from a study of the impact of Medica’s Fit Choices program show that Medica members who began a new, regular program of exercise have seen a decrease in claim costs after just two years in the program with an average claim cost decrease of more than 33 percent on a per member per month basis during the period.

Medica says that other studies show that helping people stay healthy not only saves lives, it controls health care costs. An estimated 70 percent of all illnesses are due to lifestyle-related causes such as obesity and physical inactivity, and one-half of all medical costs are attributable to illnesses that could be prevented.

Health Plan Innovation Take: Politicians can argue all day long about which is the better health plan, but until we make a concerted effort to address some of the root causes of the nation’s sub-par health status, we will continue to spend more money and get less satisfactory results. More health plans should follow the lead of Medica by encouraging their members to take responsibility for their own good health.

Pay Me to Stay Healthy

An interesting story showed up recently on the web page of an Omaha TV news station, KETV. The story noted that there is a bill, now in the Ways and Means Committee, that would allow people to set aside money in their health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible savings accounts (FSAs) to use toward fitness programs and fitness equipment.

While the piece did not mention the bill by name or number, I suspect that they were referring to the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Bill (H.R. 245) which was introduced in January by Gerald (Jerry) Weller, (R, IL) and would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to treat certain amounts paid for exercise equipment and physical fitness programs as amounts paid for medical care.

In other words we could use our HSA’s and FSAs as mechanisms to pay for health clubs and fitness equipment with pre-tax dollars just like we can use these funds to pay for IRS-approved medical expenses today.

It really is a novel idea that we would pay to help people stay healthy rather than to just spend money once they get sick.

It is no surprise that the International Health, Racquet & Sports club Association (IHRSA) a non-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide has come out in support of the proposal. In an news release published in April of this year, the IHRSA said that H.R. 245 “takes a giant step toward a healthier America.”

The group went on to note that by allowing for exercise and physical fitness programs and certain exercise equipment to be paid for out of pre-tax dollars, PHIT will help provide the level of support many Americans need to be able to adopt healthier lifestyles and become more physically active.

The IHRSA press release cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that people who participate in moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity physical activity
on a regular basis lower their risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, non-insulin- dependent (type 2) diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. Yet, more than 50 percent of American adults don’t get enough physical activity to provide health benefits. And a startling 30 percent — more than 60 million people 20 years and older — are obese.

Its is certainly worth giving this idea a shot. Unfortunately, the bill has not gotten much traction in Congress (currently eight co-sponsors), nor has it received much publicity. No doubt it will die in the House Ways and Means Committee as did its 2006 predecessor H. R. 5479. What a shame.