Humana and Accenture Join Alliance for a Healthier Generation Healthcare Initiative to Provide Comprehensive Health Benefits to Combat Childhood Obesity.

Humana and Accenture are boosting their commitment to the fight against childhood obesity by collaborating with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, to provide comprehensive health benefits for the prevention, assessment, and treatment of childhood obesity.

Humana will be working with select employers, including the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan (Humana’s largest commercial customer) to offer the benefit and study the results.

As part of its Live Well at Accenture initiative, Accenture will adopt the childhood obesity benefit recommended by the Alliance. Accenture will also work with the Alliance to explore additional communication and engagement approaches for its employees and their families around this issue

President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, who co-leads the Alliance with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and American Heart Association President Clyde Yancy, lauded the companies while encouraging other insurers and employers to join the commitment to the health and well being of children.

“To combat the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States, we need to encourage innovative healthcare solutions,” said President Clinton. “Since launching these benefits through the Alliance Healthcare Initiative one year ago, more than 1.5 million children have gained access to these important services and Humana and Accenture’s commitment will bring us closer to our goal of reaching approximately 6.2 million children.”

The Alliance Healthcare Initiative marked the first time national medical associations, leading insurers, and employers have collaborated to combat childhood obesity. Eligible children have access to at least four follow up visits with their primary care provider and at least four visits with a registered dietitian per year (which, depending on the carrier, may occur through the physician’s practice). These healthcare professionals work with children and their families on how to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“As a nation, we have to get ahead of the crushing burden of preventable chronic disease. Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and by joining the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthcare Initiative, Humana will be able to help make treatment more available to children and their families,” said Michael B. McCallister, President and CEO of Humana.

“In addition to providing this benefit to our employees as part of our overall wellness initiative, we are working with the Alliance to help accelerate understanding and broader adoption of the various Alliance programs,” said Stephen J. Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture’s Health & Public Service operating group.

Recommendations released in January from the US Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of private-sector experts in prevention and primary care, spotlight the importance of screening children ages 6 to 18 years for obesity and clinicians referring patients as appropriate to programs to improve their weight status. These recommendations are aligned with the benefits the Alliance Healthcare Initiative offers children and their families.

In addition to brokering and implementing voluntary agreements with insurers and employers, the Alliance Healthcare Initiative is committed to informing the science base around effective clinical solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic. To that end, the Alliance selected Emory University’s Institute for Advance Policy Solutions to conduct a process and outcomes evaluation of the Initiative.

“By joining this Initiative, not only are Humana and Accenture providing groundbreaking health benefits; they are also participating in critical data collection and analysis,” said Clyde Yancy, MD, president of the American Heart Association and medical director for Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute and chief of cardiothoracic transplantation at Baylor University Medical Center. “By evaluating the implementation of clinical processes and the health outcomes delivered, we will be able to determine the most effective method for clinically combating childhood obesity.”

In addition to Humana and Accenture, the Alliance Healthcare Initiative participants include: Aetna, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dietetic Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, PepsiCo and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Aetna has recruited several employers to participate including Paychex. The American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation also offer this benefit to their employees.

About the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

The American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation joined forces in May of 2005 to create a healthier generation by addressing one of the nation’s leading public health threats – childhood obesity. The goal of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is to reduce the nationwide prevalence of childhood obesity by 2015, and to empower kids nationwide to make healthy lifestyle choices. The Alliance works to positively affect the places that can make a difference to a child’s health: homes, schools, restaurants, doctor’s offices and communities. For more information please visit: HealthierGeneration.org.

Programs Fight Obestity and Encourage Kids to Get Active.

Two new programs were announced today, one aimed at fighting obesity and another to promote healthy lifestyles for children.

In Tampa, FL, the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), is issuing a nationwide challenge to all Americans to talk to their doctor about their weight.

Beginning today, the OAC is encouraging all Americans to visit www.yourweightmatters.org and learn more about measuring their weight, health and wellness and much more. When taking the challenge, visitors will be provided with a “Your Weight Matters” e-toolkit. The e-toolkit will help them gather the right kind of information to bring when talking to their doctor, including a food log, exercise tips, helpful resources and much more.

“More than half of the United States is affected by excess weight; however, many Americans, both young and old, do not realize they are overweight or obese until they are faced with a serious health risk, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. The ‘Your Weight Matters’ campaign is an excellent way for individuals to educate themselves about their weight and realize its impact on their health and wellbeing,” said Barbara Thompson, OAC Chairperson.

In Harrisburg, PA, Capital BlueCross and the Pennsylvania Department of Health are kicking off a grant program called Active Schools that is aimed at middle school-aged children throughout the region.

Active Schools is a grant program that allows selected schools to implement year-long programs encouraging students to engage in physical activity at least 30 minutes each day. The $15,000 per school grants are funded by Capital BlueCross and the Department of Health.

One such grant was awarded to Steelton-High Spire. The school is using the money to buy a fitness center from Project Fit America. The fitness center is set to arrive by the end of January and features an outdoor fitness course and mobile indoor exercise equipment.

“The Steelton-Highspire staff can’t wait for our Project Fit America to arrive so we can start our students on a structured path to good health,” said Superintendent Dr. Deborah Wortham. “We are quite aware that a healthy body makes for a healthy mind. That is why we applied for the grant and selected Project Fit America as our daily activity. It is just so important to provide a complete learning environment and that starts with a child’s individual health.”

About the OAC

The OAC is a nonprofit National charity dedicated to helping those affected by obesity. The OAC was formed to bring together individuals struggling with weight issues and provide educational resources and advocacy tools.

About Capital BlueCross

Capital BlueCross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association

Source: Obesity Action Coalition and Capital BlueCross

Humana’s LifeSynch Offers Tips for Keeping New Year’s Weight Loss Resolution.

It’s that time of year. Gyms will be flooded with people ready to step on a treadmill. Grocery carts will be filled with fruits and vegetables instead of frozen pizza and chips. People will enter the New Year resolved to lose weight. But surveys show that most people don’t keep this resolution. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to change your lifestyle and drop the pounds, according to Dr. Ken Hopper of LifeSynch, the behavioral health and wellness subsidiary of Humana (NYSE: HUM) .

Hopper offers the following simple tips toward achieving your New Year’s weight loss resolution.

1. Slow down! Sit down at a table and really think about what you are
eating. Try eating with your non-dominant hand or using smaller
utensils. Doing this will help you savor and not scarf your food. You
will also realize that you are full before you eat too much.

2. Stop. Don’t eat while you are distracted. This means putting down the
remote, putting your car in park or putting away the cell phone. Eating
involves more than just putting food in your mouth. We use all five
senses while we eat. We smell, see, taste, hear and touch. Pay
attention to all of them.

3. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it. Don’t buy unhealthy foods that
will tempt you every time you open the pantry. It is easier to resist
buying tempting foods for 30 minutes at the store than to resist eating
them for 24 hours a day if they’re in your house.

4. Be selective. If you can take or leave doughnuts, why take one just
because it’s offered? Ask yourself if you would really enjoy it. If you
wouldn’t, hold out until you have a chance to eat your very favorite
treat.

5. Find substitutions. Crave chocolate? Try a cup of low sugar hot
chocolate or a pudding cup. Plain yogurt can replace mayonnaise or sour cream. Applesauce can replace oil in most baking recipes.

6. Snack with purpose. Try a combination of protein and carbohydrates. Examples are string cheese and a handful of nuts, an apple with peanut butter, or yogurt and berries.

7. Get support. You don’t have to do it alone. Many organizations offer
wellness benefits through companies like LifeSynch. Some include health
coaches that provide motivation and can help you find ways to reach
goals. Also recruit your family and friends to make some of the same
changes.

The easiest way to make healthy changes is doing things that are realistic and sustainable for your life. If you cannot see yourself doing something two months from now, then don’t go for it. Change your mindset. Don’t say, “I will do it tomorrow.” Say, “I will do it today.”

About LifeSynch:

LifeSynch, a subsidiary of Humana, is a national health and productivity solutions company. LifeSynch’s mission is to identify, develop and apply innovative behavioral-focused solutions that optimize health and productivity. LifeSynch provides total behavior solutions to more than 4 million members. For more information, visit http://www.lifesynch.com/.

About Humana:

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

Source: Humana

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

New USB Technology Adds Accountability and Convenience to Wellness Programs.

Uploadable USB pedometers may be new, but they’re already seeing prime time in wellness. A combination of advanced accelerometer functionality and automated data upload are solving a long term concern over the accuracy of self-reported data. It’s now possible to accurately gauge and reward improved participation in a fitness program.

walking-pedometerCoreHealth Technologies is one of the first wellness suppliers to integrate this technology. “Our health challenges are easy to administer and participate in… an inspirational approach that has proven effective,” comments CEO Anne Marie Kirby, “but USB pedometers add a whole new dimension. Users simply plug the pedometer into the computer, a greeting comes up asking if the steps are to be uploaded, and then the website opens to show the participants their achievement in the health challenge. It’s the ultimate in convenience. Anyone can do it.”

CoreHealth’s motivational software for online fitness, weight loss, nutrition, and other challenges is used throughout the world by organizations with 1000 or more employees. Participants have used pedometers before, but never with such convenience. “We find pedometers can increase success,” states Jeff Goreski, Implementation Specialist. “Now participants can be fully engaged regardless of age or computer skill. This new technology has opened wide doors for prevention.”

The USB pedometers use specialized technology exclusive to Pacific Rim Wellness. A full week of steps information is retained within the device, so people don’t have to upload daily to accurately report, and a new accelerometer monitors and stores fitness intensity. Users simply connect to the computer once a week to update their personal fitness record. “Pedometers now offer uncompromised accountability and accuracy for health and wellness programs,” comments Pacific Rim Wellness administrator Robert Dyke.

“Our greatest concern was affordability,” Anne Marie explained. “Our total wellness package sells to large employers and insurers for only $10 per participant, and that’s for a whole year! We couldn’t have a costly pedometer option, but we needed the advanced functionality. Pacific Rim Wellness had the exclusive technology and an aggressive price point.”

Technology is fast integrating with wellness for robust programs today’s businesses can afford. “Our clients generate as much as $25 return for every $1 investment,” states Anne Marie, “that is a significant improvement in a company’s ability to compete. Still, many organizations rely on insurers, EAPs, and health providers for their wellness. These suppliers have long sought verifiable accuracy in the programs they fund. Now they have it.”

Source: CoreHealth Technologies Inc.

It’s Black Friday – Time to Shop Off the Calories! Average Thanksgiving Meal Weighed in at 2,225 Calories.

Iowa and Minnesota Served the Healthiest Thanksgiving Feast While South Carolina Indulged

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Allrecipes.com, the world’s #1 food site, received record-high Thanksgiving traffic numbers, with more than 2.8 million visitors the day before Thanksgiving, providing a clear picture of what was served on the biggest food holiday of the year. The average Thanksgiving meal in 2009 weighed in at 2,225 calories per serving, a 5 percent increase from last year’s feast. According to the Allrecipes site, Sweet Potato Pie I stole the show as the most popular Thanksgiving recipe, a contrast from last year’s popular Homestyle Turkey the Michigander Way.

Not all Americans will need to do as much walking on Black Friday as others. Allrecipes reports that Iowa and Minnesota tied for the most calorie conscious-fares. With an average of 1,797 calories per serving, they consumed 428 fewer calories than the average state and 893 fewer calories compared to the most indulgent state, South Carolina which consumed 2,690 calories on average. Iowa and Minnesota’s most popular recipe was Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie totaling 283 calories per serving; South Carolina satisfied their sweet tooth with Sweet Potato Pie I which totals 389 calories per serving.

“We saw a 24% traffic increase compared to 2008 and are unbelievably thankful to everyone who trusted our site to help them prepare one of the most important meals of the year,” said Lisa Sharples, president of Allrecipes. “As the top online resource for home cooks, it’s important for us to support our community during such a food-centric holiday. We were pleased to do that and this year and especially delighted to be able to interact with our community via our first ever live webcast.”

Allrecipes Live Webcast

Allrecipes executed an inaugural pre-Thanksgiving webcast on Wednesday, Nov. 25, to help viewers prepare for the biggest food holiday of the year. The webcast was filmed live from Allrecipes’ Seattle kitchen where Allrecipes staff demonstrated how to cook a variety of holiday recipes including those featured in its Thanksgiving Budget Menu for Eight, answered home cooks’ questions live throughout the day via Facebook and Twitter, and provided cooking and entertaining tips and tricks. The high-tech version of a “turkey hotline” was viewed by people in more than 160 countries, receiving more than 23,000 visits.

About Allrecipes

Allrecipes, the world’s #1 food site, receives more than 300 million annual visits from home cooks who discover and share food ideas through user-generated recipes, reviews, photos, profiles, blogs, and meal ideas. For more than 13 years, the Seattle-based site has served as a dynamic, indispensable resource for cooks of all skill levels seeking trusted recipes, party ideas, everyday and holiday meal solutions, practical cooking tips, and food advice. As the fastest growing food site, Allrecipes provides insights into the cooking behaviors of home cooks everywhere. Since 2008, Allrecipes has launched localized versions for the United Kingdom/Ireland, Australia/New Zealand, France, Germany, China, Japan, Quebec, the Netherlands, Southeast Asia, and Brazil. Allrecipes is the publisher of Allrecipes Dinner Spinner, the #1 food app for the iPhone with versions for the U.S., UK, Australia, France, and Germany. Allrecipes is part of Food & Entertaining @RDA, a division of The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. For additional information regarding Allrecipes, please visit www.allrecipes.com.

Source: Allrecipes.com

Web Site: http://allrecipes.com/

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.

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?

Call Me When It’s Time to Eat

I wrote last week in this blog about the somewhat curious health plan innovation offered up by the Pittsburgh-based health plan Highmark. You may remember that Highmark announced that it was using pre-paid card technology to sell health care gift cards to be used for everything from Lasik surgery to making co-pays.

This week Humana announced an innovation that struck me as a little off the wall even though I had been aware of this venture for a couple of years now. Sensei Inc., a joint venture between Humana Inc. and Card Guard AG, introduced a new health and weight management program that uses cell phones as personal coaches. The program, called “Sensei for Weight Loss,” currently is available to Sprint and AT&T customers.

According to a story in the Louisville Business Journal, users go online to enter personal information such as desired weight, food preferences, meal times and exercise routines, and the program generates a customized nutrition and fitness plan. Throughout the day, the program delivers messages to the user’s cell phone, such as weekly shopping lists, meal recommendations and motivational tips. The program also records the user’s eating choices and fitness activities and tracks progress toward goals.

I personally am not sure that I want that close of a relationship with my cell phone, but for people who need and want this type of monitoring, Sensei for Weight Loss could have an impact on health care costs.

Consider that a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report outlining projections for long-term health care spending and reviewing the factors that contribute to growth in spending was also released last week. The report projects that, in the absence of changes in federal law, total spending on health care would rise from 16 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007 to 25 percent in 2025, 37 percent in 2050, and 49 percent in 2082.

The report discussed two potential approaches to reducing health care spending: (1) generating more information about the relative effectiveness of medical treatments; and (2) changing the incentives for providers and consumers in the supply and demand of health care. CBO noted that some analysts have advocated significant expansions of disease management and care coordination as mechanisms for reducing costs.

With those sobering facts in mind, maybe a cell phone that monitors and promotes healthy behaviors is not so far fetched. In deed, it might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

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