Friday, January 25, 2013

Making One Day Last All Year Long

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said many wise things in his too-short lifetime. The quote above is one of my favorites. No matter what you do for a living, where you live or your education level, serving others is something anyone can do. There are people in need all around us and sometimes doing something you perceive as simple can actually change a person’s life.
Dr. King not only said these words, but he lived them. I love that when we pause as a country to remember him and his tremendous work in January, it’s not just a day off of work or school but a day that can change lives. It’s a “day on, not a day off.” Since 1994 when Congress declared the holiday as a national day of service, groups and individuals around the country have come together to strengthen their communities and empower each other to make a difference.

This past Monday, I was honored to take part in the 18th annual Greater Philadelphia area’s day of service at Girard College. The signature project this year was the distribution of 200 netbooks to residents of the Philadelphia Housing Authority designed to help bridge the digital divide. Beyond just handing out the technology, we also helped set recipients up and showed them how to search and apply for jobs online. As we learned from Todd Bernstein, founder and director of the 18th annual Greater Philadelphia Day of Service, 41 percent of Philadelphia households do not have internet access. This really puts members of our community at a disadvantage. It’s not just about surfing the web - whether it’s research for school, job applications, or a way to find vital resources, the Internet has become a necessity in our daily lives.

Additionally, other UnitedHealthcare employees staffed the wellness fair and kids’ carnival at the event. The fair allowed us to help members of the community get the information and preventative tools they need to stay healthy. And the kid’s carnival taught children about Dr. King, helping to pass along his dream and inspiration of peace and equality to a whole new generation.

It was an amazing experience to be part of such an important and momentous day.  As I volunteered on Monday with about 110,000 others at numerous projects all around the Delaware Valley, I felt like we were doing true justice to such an honorable man.

But reflecting on the event a few days later, I’m reminded of the importance of keeping Dr. King’s vision alive every day. We need to help each other out and support our communities at every chance. Need doesn’t just wait for a special day in January; it’s always around us. I encourage all of us to carry around Dr. King’s message in our hearts so that when the opportunity presents itself, we can serve with a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love!

UHC Team displays MLK collage

Sue Schick with her netbook partner

Young visitor at Kids Carnival spins the "Food For Thought Wheel"

Friday, January 18, 2013

Marching for Healthy Kids

When comedian Eddie Cantor asked the American public to begin a March of Dimes by sending ten cents to help fight polio, the average American annual income was about $1,500, so a dime was worth a lot more money back then than it is now. But people responded and the dimes turned into dollars which turned into the research that has done so much to improve the health of children: creating two polio vaccines, helping discover DNA, developing a test to screen PKU, promoting newborn screening and so much, much more.

Cantor’s name meant to spoof the newsreel that ran in movie theatres, the March of Time, which was a major source of news for much of the country in the late 1930’s. That was before television and long before the Internet, smart phones, reality TV and social media. What would Cantor call it today? Tweet your Tens? Facebook your Fives? Marching with the Stars? 
So much has changed since Cantor coined the name of this organization, The March of Dimes. Seventy-five years later, when it comes to the health of children, much of the positive change has come from the dimes, nickels, quarters, dollars and tens of thousands of dollars that individuals, foundations and corporations have generously donated through the years.

But more challenges face us in protecting our children. Last night I had the honor of sharing my compassion for and commitment to the March of Dimes with an intimate group of leaders who also served this awesome organization by marching, writing checks, and permitting employees to participate in March of Dimes fundraisers.  The event was the kick-off of the March of Dimes’ 75th anniversary celebration.

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration the March of Dimes is launching a campaign designed to educate the public about the importance of the last weeks of pregnancy titled, “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait.”  While some women may need to have their babies early for medical reasons, too many births are being scheduled before full gestation for non-medical reasons.  If a woman and her baby are healthy, it's best to stay pregnant for at least 39 to 40 weeks.

But many women are unaware of the risks of scheduling an early delivery.  And when it comes to pregnancy, what mothers don’t know really could hurt them and their babies.  That’s one of the reasons why UnitedHealthcare launched its Healthy Pregnancy program (  to help connect expectant mothers, insured by UnitedHealthcare, with the care and education they need. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) classifies a baby as “full term” at 37 weeks, but advises against elective deliveries before 39 weeks.  A UnitedHealthcare study, which surveyed 650 insured, first-time mothers from varied geographic, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, found that more than 90% of respondents thought that it was safe to deliver a baby before 39 weeks. 

But those last weeks of pregnancy count.  In the last few weeks, babies are still developing important body functions, and babies born before 39 weeks are at increased risk of complications like respiratory distress, jaundice, infection, low blood sugar, extra days in the hospital and even death.

When UnitedHealthcare reviewed its claims data, we discovered that 48% of newborns admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit were from scheduled admissions for delivery, many before 39 weeks of gestation.   While some scheduled deliveries were for medical reasons, doctors and hospitals were able to decrease their NICU admissions by 46% by reducing the number of elective deliveries before 39 weeks that were performed for non-medical reasons.

So, the research proves that the March of Dimes is right - healthy babies are worth the wait! Babies born before 39-40 weeks are at an increased risk.

Let’s work together to help our babies start out on the right foot! 

March of Dimes supporters celebrate 75 years of supporting healthy babies

Friday, January 11, 2013

What’s an innocentive? Hint: This one’s worth $60,000…

You provide the innovation. 

We’ll provide the incentive.

You might call it an innocentive.

UnitedHealthcare is offering $60,000 to the winner of it’s “Breakthrough Health Tech Challenge,” just announced at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show.  The Challenge taps the creativity of innovators worldwide to bring forth new ideas to use common consumer devises, including video game systems and mobile phones, to improve the health system and help people address chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

I’ve written a lot in the past about just how much UnitedHealthcare emphasizes the importance of innovation in improving the health of our nation.  But if there’s one thing we have learned about innovation, it’s that the best ideas to better serve people don’t always come from executive board rooms.  Instead, great ideas may come from a nurse who develops a solution to meet her patients’ needs, a technology guru who develops a video game to help his dad lose weight, or maybe a health teacher who is seeking a new way to engage his students.

Our innovation challenge is about listening to ideas from people from all walks of life, and turning the best ideas into meaningful action that makes a difference in people’s health.

And if it happens that your idea is the best one, we’ll reward you with $60,000.

Details of the challenge and a submission form can be found at  Ideas will be accepted through April 8, 2013.

For more on how UnitedHealthcare is using consumer technologies to improve the health of the community, watch Jeff Alter, chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual, discuss UnitedHealthcare’s technology initiatives at the Consumer Electronics Show in the video below.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Get Paid to Get Healthy

Happy 2013! With the New Year comes a time for us to take stock and make resolutions to live better lives. January is always a clean slate when many people, myself included, make commitments to exercise more, eat better and improve our overall health. Unfortunately, as we’ve all experienced, most resolutions don’t even make it to the Super Bowl.

But what if you could save money, or even get paid for making -- and achieving -- some of those promises aimed at improving your health? We can all certainly use a little more motivation! That’s the idea behind a range of new health benefits plans and incentive programs offered by a growing number of employers.

In fact, almost 80 percent of U.S. employers offer worksite wellness programs, many featuring financial incentives, according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Helping to drive the trend is the recognition that more needs to be done to improve wellness and prevent disease.

For example, beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act allows employers to offer employees rewards of up to 30 percent of the cost of coverage for participating in a wellness program or meeting certain health measures, such as for body mass index, blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Some health plans offer gift cards, premium reductions or even direct financial contributions to health savings accounts for employees who engage in wellness activities, such as completing an online health assessment, a telephone-based health coaching program or an at-home health screening. At UnitedHealthcare, we offer large Pennsylvania employers Personal Rewards, a wellness program that enables an employee to earn up to $600 per year, or $1,200 per couple, for meeting certain health benchmarks.
Resolutions may come and go but a healthier lifestyle is something we all need to strive to make permanent. As insurers - and fellow resolution makers - we understand that a financial boost is the kind of incentive that can make all the difference. I hope all of my readers have a very happy and healthy New Year where all your resolutions come true!

Keeping healthy resolutions is even easier when you have a group to keep you motivated