Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Jersey youth organization fight childhood obesity with UnitedHealth HEROES grants

The bad news is that recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that nearly one in three kids in America is obese or overweight.

The good news is that New Jersey youth organizations are coming up with innovative new programs to prevent and reverse childhood obesity in their communities.

UnitedHealthcare is giving these organizations funding to implement their ideas through our HEROES grant program.  UnitedHealth HEROES is a wellness initiative developed by UnitedHealthcare to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders, to develop creative ideas to help fight childhood obesity.

Grants of up to $1,000 were awarded to youth-led programs that include both an activity element, in which kids count their steps, and a service component that increases awareness, provides direct service, enables advocacy on behalf of a cause, or features youth philanthropy around the issue of childhood obesity. UnitedHealth HEROES projects began on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service (Jan. 21, 2013) and end on Global Youth Service Day (April 26-28, 2013).

Here is a list of New Jersey programs that received HEROES grants:
  • Camden County 4-H Youth Development Program in Cherry Hill  - Teen ambassadors will lead monthly physical activities in community parks to encourage younger students to lead healthy lives through the  “Get Moving, Get Healthy with 4-H and the Rowan Upward Bound” initiative.
  • Happy Hands Foundation in Newark - A youth leadership group will design and implement a health education campaign and raise awareness in the community through a 20-mile walk.
  • Rutgers University in New Brunswick – In an effort to increase safe bike routes at all five campuses, the university will sponsor a 13 mile walk and ask middle and high school students to develop creative ideas to improve public transportation under the theme “If I Were Director of Transportation.”
Congratulations to our winners, and I look forward to seeing how their programs impact our New Jersey communities. 

To see a complete list of grant winners nationwide and their projects, visit

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Diabetes health plan improves employee health and saves employer on health costs

More than 80 percent of diabetics don’t follow their physicians’ advice on how to manage their disease according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But ignoring doctors’ advice can lead to serious complications from the disease, including blindness, limb amputations, skin complications, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and even death.
Experts say that out-of-pocket costs for recommended supplies, medicines and physician-visit co-pays are key reasons why many people with diabetes do not follow treatment guidelines.  A lack of knowledge about diabetes management is further to blame.
A new study shows that health care plans that are specifically designed to help diabetics manage their condition, such as UnitedHealthcare’s Diabetes Health Plan, improve participants’ adherence to treatment plans and lowers overall health care costs.
The Diabetes Health Plan encourages participants to follow independent, medically proven steps to keep their condition in check - such as routine exams, regular blood surge checks, preventive screenings, and wellness coaching – by providing financial incentives for completing each step.  The plan offers benefits such as some diabetes supplies and diabetes-related prescription drugs at no cost, and no co-payments for related doctor visits, an estimated annual cost savings of $500.
The study compared 620 enrollees in UnitedHealthcare’s Diabetes Health Plan with 9,175 people with diabetes enrolled in standard health plans.  The study found that:
·         Incentives, such as offering some diabetes supplies and medications at no cost, increased partcipants’ adherence to treatment guidelines.
·         On average, participants achieved compliance with 75 percent of the key requirements, compared to 61 percent for people no enrolled in the plan.
·         The compliance rate of plan participants increased 6 percent over two years.
·         21 percent of participants saw a reduction in their health risk scores, which are used to measure expected health care costs for an individual or population.
·         Health care costs for participants rose at a 4 percent slower pace than for the control group.
The Diabetes Health Plan is part of a larger effort in healthcare to reward consumers for prevention rather than focus on treatment only after complications have occurred.  Studies like this one consistently show that focusing on preventive care leads to overall improved health for employees and reduced cost for employers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

$60,000 for the best idea using technology to improve community health

UnitedHealthcare is offering $60,000 for the next great innovation to apply consumer technology to solving community health problems.

The reward goes to the winner of our “Breakthrough Health Tech Challenge,” which we announced at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  The Challenge aims to tap the creativity of innovators worldwide to submit their ideas for new ways 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.

Innovation is one of the pillars of UnitedHealthcare’s mission to improve the health of the community.  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, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual, discuss UnitedHealthcare’s technology initiatives at the Consumer Electronics Show in the video below.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Get Healthier and Wealthier in 2013

Many of us take the opportunity of a new year to make solemn resolutions to better ourselves in some way, whether it’s by losing weight, improving our financial situation, eating better, or achieving other goals.

But all too often, the good intentions of January are long forgotten by the time February rolls around.

One of the biggest issues with maintaining motivation is a lack of immediate payoff.  For instance, it can be tough to see the benefits of preventive care and wellness programs when you can’t always see how your healthy habits will help you avoid health issues down the road.

That’s why many health insurers and employers have begun offering an immediate payoff by providing financial incentives to those who complete specific wellness goals.

Many of these programs 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.  For instance, UnitedHealthcare offers 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 standards.

Another example is customized health plans that help people manage chronic conditions.  UnitedHealthcare’s Diabetes Health Plan enables people with diabetes save up to $500 per year through lower co-pays and discounts on drugs by following their doctors’ recommended treatments.

The trend of offering financial incentives for good health habits is likely to continue.  Beginning in 2014, the national health reform law will allow employers to reward their employees with 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.

So as you consider your resolution to get healthier this year, remember that it can make you a little wealthier, too.