Monday, January 23, 2012

Kids Strive to Alter Path to Better Health

It’s alarming!  More than one-third of all children between the ages of 10-17 in Pennsylvania are obese or overweight, according to the 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, putting them on the road to lifelong chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. 

If left unchecked or untreated, obesity will affect 43 percent of adults by 2018 and add nearly $344 billion in that year alone to the nation’s annual direct health care costs, accounting for more than 21 percent of health care spending, according to America’s Health Rankings®.

The numbers are staggering – but we can help slow or reverse this trend by altering the path we are currently on – by eating better, exercising more and making wellness a priority, especially for our children. Young people are leading the way to a healthier lifestyle through the UnitedHealth HEROES grants program, which we are involved in with Youth Service America. 

Through this program, one of my favorites here at UnitedHealthcare, young people receive grants to implement solutions to help fight obesity in their schools and local communities. By focusing children’s energy, creativity and problem-solving capabilities, we are helping young people take action to improve their overall health and quality of life in a way that’s not only educational, but beneficial for their entire community.

This year, more than $187,000 in HEROES grants was awarded to 282 schools and community-based youth organizations nationwide, including these seven Pennsylvania programs:
·         DeSales University in Center Valley to support the “Films for Fitness” program, a part of the University’s HOPE mentoring program that will educate middle school students about childhood obesity in the community and help them develop their own public service announcements about preventing it.
·         The Nonprofit Partnership in Erie to work with a group of 16 high school students representing different Erie high schools and help them develop their own projects to mobilize and educate area middle school students about nutrition and healthy activity.
·         Lionville Community YMCA in Exton for its “Kids 4 Community Health” campaign to help children in YMCA after-school programs learn about nutrition and physical activity and provide tools to help kids and families become healthier.
·         Ligonier Valley YMCA to expand its nutrition education initiative with cooking demonstrations during its after-school program. The program also exposes kids to activities like rock climbing, swimming, jump rope, high ropes courses and running.
·         Greater Susquehanna Valley YMCA: Milton Branch to support its weekly TGIF program and to purchase aquatic basketball hoops for its indoor pool and pamphlets outlining nutrition and exercise recommendations for kids.
·         The Police Athletic League of Norristown for its 3-H AGE (Athletics, Garden & Education) program,  in which students participate in academic tutoring, track and field and a youth garden that will grow vegetables for the local community.
·         Diversified Community Services of Philadelphia for its “Food Fit Philly” program, a hands-on nutritional education and cooking club for students between the ages of nine and 11.

We can’t wait to join these groups during the 2012 Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) on April 20-22, as they roll out their programs – and look forward to ongoing work, ensuring that the benefit of these programs will continue to have a positive long-lasting impact on these young people and their health.

To read about all the 2011-2012 UnitedHealth HEROES grant recipients and their projects, go to

The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity, also strives to help children live healthier by providing grants to pay for medical services, treatments and equipment, and prescriptions that are not covered, or are only partially covered, by grant applicants’ commercial health insurance.  For more on UHCCF, go to

Monday, January 9, 2012

For 2012, Resolve to Keep it Simple

It happens every year. We make resolutions to get healthier, exercise more, take better care of ourselves – and quickly break them. We’re “well”-intentioned, but we actually sabotage our own efforts by setting goals that are too big (e.g. vowing to hit the gym at 6 a.m. every day when you’ve never worked out before) and by wanting results too quickly. Change – and the willpower to sustain it – does not come that easy. That’s why I was particularly interested in a recent article that suggested taking baby steps to better health.

The Futures Company, a global research and consulting firm, notes that – “For a healthy 2012, think ‘simple.'” The Company stated that individuals view getting healthy as a complicated process. But, in order for New Year’s goals to stick, they must be as “simple, easy and seamlessly integrated into people’s lifestyles as possible.”

With this advice in mind, one of the simplest steps you can take to get moving in a healthy direction is to review your health insurance plan. Many plans offer health and wellness programs and other value-added benefits and resources at no additional cost.

Depending on your policy, you may be able to:

• Enroll in health reminder and other wellness programs to receive alerts as to when it’s time to visit the doctor for check-ups and annual preventive care, such as mammograms, vaccinations and physicals. In addition, many insurance plans offer education, health assessments and personal-support resources that can help guide expectant mothers through their pregnancies and individuals with diabetes and pre-diabetes, for example.

• Utilize electronic health records and prescriptions to more easily track medications and health histories. Tools such as these may help reduce medical errors, increase cost savings and improve health outcomes.

• Compare treatment costs – Some health plans offer tools that enable individuals to compare the quality ratings among physicians who participate in your health plan’s network, in addition to their cost, like UnitedHealthcare’s Treatment Cost Estimator® and its UnitedHealth Premium® designation program.

• Access 24/7 nurse care lines where trained, licensed nurses are available to answer basic health questions. They are especially helpful during after-hours or for minor health issues that do not require an immediate trip to the urgent-care clinic or emergency room.

• And most importantly, take a health risk assessment. Many health plans offer online health self-assessments that help people learn more about their current conditions and risks.

And while you’re on a roll, take a few minutes to schedule health appointments and screenings now. Let’s use the whole month of January, not to make empty resolutions, but to resolve to get in control of our health – and end the cycle of guilt and failure.

I want to wish all of you a very happy – and healthy – New Year!