Monday, February 25, 2013

Children’s dental health is a serious health issue in New Jersey

Baby teeth fall out anyway, so why worry much about children’s dental health?
It’s a common misconception to believe that baby teeth are not important to a child’s lifelong dental health.  In fact, tooth decay in children can lead to poor eating habits, speech problems, oral infections and periodontal disease.  Keeping baby teeth healthy ensures that permanent teeth come in properly and leads to good oral health.

But many children don’t receive the appropriate dental care they need.  A 2010 study from the Pew Research Center shows that New Jersey ranks at the bottom of all the states in dental care for children.  Key problems include a lack of use of fluoride and sealants for children, and a low percentage of Medicaid-enrolled children who receive dental care.
UnitedHealthcare is working to address the problem in New Jersey by educating primary care physicians to perform oral health screenings on very young children and apply fluoride varnish.  This helps us identify children at risk for dental problems and help them get the dental care they need.

We’re also working on innovative programs across the country to help us find better ways to address children’s dental health, particularly for children enrolled in Medicaid.
For example, UnitedHealthcare recently helped Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry in Philadelphia launch Project Engage.  The program is designed to improve children’s oral health by creating an oral health registry that will use dental claims information and operating and emergency department histories to identify children most in need of dental care.  The children and their families will then be contacted by a community health worker who will send the family information, assist in scheduling dental appointments and help them receive dental care at clinics or at home by public health dental hygienists.

Yvonne Ganem volunteers her time at the Project Engage dental screenings

Oral health is a strong indicator of overall health.  Research has shown that gum disease can contribute to and worsen health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis.  Starting good oral health habits at a young age is an important step in preventing disease later in life.

For more information about dental health and tips for keeping children’s teeth and gums healthy, visit

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What have you done for your heart today?

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer in America, responsible for one in every four deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

February is American Heart Month, and it serves as a great reminder to everyone to think about keeping their hearts healthy.

Certain uncontrollable factors contribute to a person’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease, such as age, heredity and ethnicity.  But healthy habits can go a long way toward improving heart health.  The key is making sure that heart health is a part of an everyday routine.

Here are some things you can do to protect your heart and keep it strong:
1.      Get moving.  Whatever you like, be it swimming, playing basketball, or just taking a walk with your dog or a friend, the key is to make at least 30 minutes of heart-pumping activities a part of your daily routine.  If you’re looking for ways to ramp up your exercise, consider using a mobile app like UnitedHealthcare’s “Start! Walking” app to help you track your progress and add variety to your routine.
2.      Know your numbers.  Your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index are key indicators to help you improve your health and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and other health problems.
3.      If you smoke, quit.  Smoking is closely linked to heart disease, in addition to other diseases.  Quitting is tough, but many employers, insurers, and wellness centers offer smoking cessation programs to help people cope.
4.      Watch your weight.  Excess weight puts more strain on the heart and can also lead to higher cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
5.      Get your 8 hours.  Insufficient sleep can contribute to hypertension, and raise blood pressure, especially in the early morning hours.
6.      Reduce stress.  Stress can aggravate many health problems.  While reducing stress will not cure a medical problem, practicing stress management techniques or activities such as yoga can be helpful.
7.      Eat for your heart.  Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products while reducing total and saturated fat intake.  The DASH diet and Mediterranean diet and two good models for healthy eating.

At the end of each day, ask yourself what you did for your heart today.  Did you go for a walk?  Did you sleep well?  Did you consume plenty of heart-healthy foods?  Over time, the little things we do on a daily basis can make a huge difference in health.

For more information on heart health, visit UnitedHealthcare’s Source4Women website, which has several tools and resources to help you understand your risk for cardiovascular disease.  You can also check out this helpful and detailed heart attack risk assessment from the American Heart Association.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Business and political leaders must work together to “ReNew Jersey”

“ReNew Jersey” has become the slogan for hope and renewal across New Jersey as we continue the long and difficult process of rebuilding our state in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

While there has been an incredible outpouring to raise funds to support disaster-relief efforts, there’s much work to be done in determining exactly how we’re going to rebuild.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk and brainstorm with other New Jersey business, community and political leaders about concrete plans for ReNewing Jersey during the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce annual Walk to Washington in our nation’s capitol.

A tradition for 75 years, the Walk to Washington gathers New Jersey leaders on a train to Washington, D.C. for a Congressional Dinner to discuss the state’s leadership and ways in which to improve business in New Jersey. During the ride, leaders walk the aisles to meet new colleagues and exchange ideas.

More than 40 Legislators, both  U.S. Senators, seven Congressmen, 30 reporters and New Jersey Governor Christie himself participated in the Walk.  But this year’s Walk to Washington was unlike any other year as we focused our discussion on the state’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy.  This year, the usual reporter’s roundtable was replaced with a panel discussion to give companies a platform to talk about effective rebuilding strategies. During the Congressional Dinner on Thursday night, Governor Chris Christie called for compromise between government factions and business leaders to find common ground for reconstruction in New Jersey.

The common ground is clear: serving the people of New Jersey.  From the engineering and construction firms to the administrators of government services to those of us involved in health care services, every one of our businesses has an important and vital role to play in the recovery of the Garden State.

The portion of the evening dedicated to recognizing “Sandy Heroes” also reminded me of how individuals can make a big difference.  Many business leaders submitted stories of New Jersey residents who went above and beyond during and after the storm to help friends, family, neighbors and strangers get to safety, receive necessary supplies, and rebuild their homes. 

The stories showed how disaster can sometimes bring out the best in human nature, and reminded me of how proud I am of my UnitedHealthcare family who volunteered their time helping others during Sandy.  In particular, one employee, Tina Iervolino of East Hanover, was exemplary in her service.

A manager of 150 nurses and social workers for New Jersey long-term care facilities, Tina joined with other UnitedHealthcare employees to visit shelters to help UnitedHealthcare members receive much-needed medical supplies. When she realized just how bad conditions were across the state, she immediately volunteered to work directly with victims through the RAINE Foundation. and spent eight days making and delivering thousands of sandwiches, sorting food for distribution, aiding grocery stores in restocking shelves, and setting up shelters for those displaced by the storm.

The stories of the “Sandy Heroes” remind us of our greatest asset in “ReNewing Jersey” – our people. 

To view photos from the Walk to Washington, click the link below.