Friday, November 30, 2012

Heroes to Your Health

It’s not always easy to live healthy. Between work and family, sometimes it’s easier to skip the gym or head to a drive-through for dinner. When we’re busy and stressed, we often reach for a candy bar instead of an apple or decide to catch up on our DVR instead of taking a family walk. We’ve all been there and understand how hard it is to make health a top priority. That’s why it’s so important to recognize people in the community who are dedicated to not only living healthy lives themselves, but helping the rest of us stay on track. I’d even go as far as calling them heroes – in fact we did!

UnitedHealthcare is proud to have teamed up with Philadelphia magazine to present the first-ever Be Well Philly Health Hero Challenge. We asked Philadelphians to tell us who their health heroes are. After 492 nominations we asked people to vote for their favorite health hero. To really get those hearts pumping, UnitedHealthcare donated one dollar to the American Heart Association for every vote cast up to $5,000. Nearly 10,000 votes later, the pool was narrowed down to just 16 nominees, followed by four finalists.

Dr. Beth DuPree, breast surgeon and medical director for Holy Redeemer’s Breast Health Program, was voted our 2012 Health Hero at a special Be Well Philly Health Hero Challenge party. Beth was inspired to lead a healthy lifestyle by her patients. Five-and-a-half years ago she found a mass in her breast – that was luckily benign – it served as her wake-up call. She always made lifestyle improvements a part of her care plan for patients, but was failing to care for herself. After her scare, she permanently changed the way she eats, exercises and deals with stress. For Beth, being physically, emotionally and spiritually “buff” has become a way of life. She put her $2,500 prize into her organization -- The Healing Consciousness Foundation -- which develops lifestyle enhancement programs including VMS Thrivers fitness classes (with Vaughn Hebron), Healthy Cooking for Life series of education, yoga, Zumba, Thrivers retreats and meditation.

The three runners-up—Students Run Philly Style’s Heather McDanel, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Stephen Brown, and Marino’s Body Shop’s Chris Marino -- each took home $250 for their charities. All 16 nominees serve an important role: They inspire and challenge those around them to be their best selves. And for that they all deserve our gratitude.

And the nominees were…

*Beth DuPree – breast surgeon and medical director, Holy Redeemer’s Breast Health Program *Heather McDaniel – director and founder, Students Run Philly Style
*Chris Marino – owner and personal trainer, Marino’s Body Shop
*Stephen Brown – triathlete, Team in Training coach with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and cancer survivor
Cate Dorr and Ford - Magee Rehabilitation Hospital
Bob Carrozza - school nurse at Penrose Elementary
Michele Redrow - CGI Racing
Kim Fortunato - Campbell Soup Company
Deborah Hirsch - Philly Dance Fitness
Alice Bast - National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
Nicole Marquis - Hip City Veg
Jillian Bullock - Fighting Spirit Warriors
Bob Schwelm - Bryn Mawr Running Company
Jeff Middleton - First Tee of Philadelphia
Carolyn Kaufmann - Stroller Strides
Sally Andersen - fitness instructor at KendrickRecreation Center

Read their stories.


Health Hero Challenge from Dave Tavani on Vimeo.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Gratitude Challenge

If your household is anything like mine, you spent the greater part of this week in throes of planning your Thanksgiving dinner, figuring out what football games you will be watching and trying to decide how to keep the best leftovers for yourself. It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. But I’d like to believe that for the rest of this year and well into the next that from time to time I will take a breath and think about those things for which I am most thankful.
Earlier this year, I invited my team to participate in a “Gratitude Challenge”.  I got the idea after hearing Shawn Acor, author of The Happiness Advantage speak on the value of Performance. His research confirms that optimism and happiness are universal predictors of success. Good news: the research also showed that happiness can be cultivated and is contagious. He suggested five simple actions that if practiced for a few minutes a day, for 21 days, would significantly improve your happiness over the upcoming year.
So we tried it as a team.  It was surprisingly simple; we set up a shared site to post our thoughts.  I suggested that every morning, for 21 consecutive days, we each paused for a moment and posted three things that for which we were grateful.  I asked them to be specific.  For example, they wouldn’t simply post, “my family," but a more detailed grateful statement like, “my son is home from college this week and we got a chance to visit."   Some chose to post, others preferred to make notes in a personal journal that they would not share, but no matter what method they chose, for all it was an amazing experience! I feel compelled to share with you the following post.

“I have been practicing a gratitude journal for years and find it inspiring that UnitedHealth Group has introduced it to the "corporate" world.  It is so easy in our everyday lives to get caught up in the craziness and think "why me"" and slip into a funk.  Many years ago I had slipped into a deep funk and decided it was time for a positive change.  Someone introduced me to the concept of writing down 5 things that I am grateful for and 5 things that I want.  They told me that I would slowly start to see the things I wanted become the things I was grateful for.  I thought what a bunch of hooey but with nothing to lose but a few minutes every day and the cost of a notebook, I set on my journey.  In the beginning it felt good just to write down "I am grateful to have made it through another day".  As time went by, it was magical to watch the transition as my wants became my thanks.  If you made it to this point in my post there is a reason you read the whole thing.  Nothing happens by chance.  Perhaps it is time for you to start on your journey and realize that all great things come from gratitude.”

 Well, not much else for me to say, I think you get it.

Sue Schick and some of her grateful team members


Friday, November 16, 2012

Collaboration: The Key to Making Health Reform Work

What do you get when you put physicians, hospital executives, non-profit administrators, and health insurance leaders in the same room?

A whole lot of innovation.

I’m talking about the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2012 Health Care Innovation Awards, which were held this past Thursday in Philadelphia.  UnitedHealthcare was a proud sponsor of the program, now in its second year, which recognizes the most innovative health care leaders in the region. Organized with the outstanding leadership of Philadelphia Business Journal publisher Lyn Kremer and editor Craig Ey, the event opened all of our eyes to the enormous potential that lies ahead in the health care field to bring better care to patients.

The program also featured a discussion on the future of health care by a panel of experts who are pushing our medical community forward, including our own Dr. Deneen Vojta, senior vice president for business initiatives and clinical affairs at UnitedHealth Group.

We also had the pleasure of having Philadelphia Business Journal healthcare reporter John George in our midst. John’s tweets and blog are full of the latest must-see stories in health care.  You can follow him on Twitter at JohnGeorgePBJ.

This year’s award winners demonstrate creative programs that bring healthy solutions to people who might not have access to them otherwise. Some of the innovative programs included a center for young refugees where they are treated by culturally sensitive staff, free dental screenings for underserved children, a new hospital to serve patients in Central Montgomery County where market research showed 60 percent of the patients traveled more than 30 minutes for medical care, and podiatrists who make house calls. These programs and the executives, health systems, doctors, nurses, volunteers and nonprofits who create them are what drives the health care industry forward, giving every member of the community the chance to live a healthy life.

The awards reminded me of the many tweets I received last Tuesday, election night, asking what’s next for health care reform.  My tweet, the law is only a part of health care reform.  The movement to modernize the health care system did not begin and will not end with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The real future of health care reform is in the group of health care innovators that stood with me in that room, and the hundreds of thousands of people like them across the country who are working together each day to improve the health care system.

Through innovation and collaboration, we can not only modernize the health care system to comply with the current laws, but continue to make improvements so that care becomes more affordable, accessible, and produces better patient outcomes.

In the next decade, we’ll continue to see more collaboration and partnerships among all of us in the health care industry as we work to use capital smartly and focus on non-traditional approaches to traditional methods of care. It’s this idea of sharing, not going it alone, that will ultimately make health reform work.

You can review and read more about the health care innovation award winners at

Sue Schick, Dr. Deneen Vojta (left) and Innovation Panel Members

Friday, November 2, 2012

Being Part of the Community is Part of Our Corporate Culture

What would get me out of my warm bed on a Sunday morning to stand on the steps of the Art Museum as Hurricane Sandy was threatening? Only one thing: the Annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Walk to Cure. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here.
I’ve written at length about diabetes, and UnitedHealthcare’s commitment to stemming the rising epidemic of type 2 diabetes by supporting innovative programs working to diagnose, treat and prevent this disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 26 million adults living with diabetes in the U.S. An additional 79 million adults – or one in four Americans – are estimated to have prediabetes, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.  We continue to build relationships with like-minded partners, such as Comcast and the YMCA, who have the ability to reach and help educate broad numbers of individuals throughout the communities we serve.
We are also committed to another form of diabetes – type 1, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, because it is more commonly, but not exclusively, diagnosed in childhood. Unlike the type 2 form of the disease, which is more related to lifestyle choices and can be prevented or reversed, type 1 cannot – at least for now. In Philadelphia, UnitedHealthcare is working to help change that through its ongoing support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)

The JDRF's "Walk to Cure Diabetes" event is a wonderful example of what collaboration for a cause can do.  Proudly sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, this year's event was held last Sunday at two locations: the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Bucks County Community College in Newtown.  Despite the looming threat of Hurricane Sandy, the nearly 8,000 participants helped raise almost $2 million to fund treatment, support and research.

But, our involvement in chronic disease prevention and helping individuals and their families lead healthier lives goes even further. From the leadership team to individual employees, we “walk the walk” -- literally, in the case of JDRF, with more than 25 of us coming out to the event. Among them was Scott Johnson, key accounts director for Eastern Pennsylvania, who has been have been involved with JDRF for 15 years, and a member of its board for the past 4, as well as the immediate past chair of the Walk. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Association named Scott Volunteer of the Year in 2010 for his pivotal role in raising more than $4 million on the organization’s behalf.  

Such active volunteer engagement by members of the UnitedHealthcare family is not unusual.  It is at the core of our mission to be more than just a great health insurance company. That’s why we’ve created a special website that offers resources to help make families aware of what can be done to prevent or manage diabetes. It even includes a couple of really cool sweepstakes.  Check it out at

Sue Schick and the dedicated UnitedHealthcare team brave the weather to walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation