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Blue Cross Teams up With Eight Groups to Address Obesity, Lower Minnesotans' Health Risks by Promoting Healthy Eating
Date:11/19/2008

EAGAN, Minn., Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) announced today it will invest up to $650,000 in additional funds from its tobacco settlement to promote healthier eating and improve health in the state next year. Eight local organizations have been selected to work with Blue Cross over the next few years to help improve eating habits and reduce illness and costs related to poor eating and obesity. They will receive Healthy Eating Minnesota contracts to create grassroots initiatives designed to make it easier for Minnesotans to eat healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables. The contracts are awarded as part of Blue Cross' healthy eating initiative announced earlier this month, which aims to double the number of Minnesotans who eat five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Other components of the healthy eating initiative include an advertising campaign called Every Helping Helps and workplace projects.

Research shows eating more fruits and vegetables provides valuable health benefits. Fruits and vegetables in a diet help protect against heart disease and some cancers, help manage diabetes and weight, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the likelihood of heart attack or stroke. "Two-thirds of adult Minnesotans are overweight or obese," noted Marc Manley, M.D., vice president and medical director of population health at Blue Cross. "If trends continue unchecked, obesity will add nearly $1 billion to Minnesota's total health care costs by 2010, and $3.7 billion by 2020. By investing in prevention and looking for ways to make it easier to eat healthfully, Minnesota stands to save significant health care dollars, and more importantly, lives."

The following eight Healthy Eating Minnesota recipients will receive contracts in the range of $75,000 to $125,000 for their work on healthy eating:

-- Dakota County Public Health Department -- partnering with local organizations, including five K-12 school districts, to improve food policies for more than 31,000 students and staff

-- Farmers' Legal Action Group, Inc. -- undertaking projects to promote local food production and preservation of farmland, including Scott County and immigrant farm communities

-- Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy -- undertaking multiple urban and statewide projects such as working with school districts, urban corner stores, and creating small-scale urban farming

-- Land Stewardship Project -- working in West Central Minnesota to ensure that residents can access healthy, locally grown food instead of driving great distances to the nearest grocer

-- Hennepin County -- partnering with seven local organizations to identify strategies to improve healthy food offerings throughout Hennepin County, with a focus on low socioeconomic populations

-- NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, Inc. -- working in North Minneapolis neighborhoods to address the lack of access to fresh, healthy foods available to residents

-- University of Minnesota, Morris -- working to expand access to, and availability of fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods on campus, within greater Morris, and in Stevens County

-- West Metro Medical Society -- working in Minneapolis and Hennepin County to ensure residents receive information to make healthy eating decisions, and to improve access to fruit and vegetables in hospital cafeterias and the community at large

Contingent upon successful negotiation, Healthy Eating Minnesota recipients will begin their work in early 2009. Learnings from each of the projects will be shared with other communities across the state.

"Unhealthy eating and physical inactivity combined are the second leading cause of preventable death and disease in our state, and today 80 percent of Minnesotans put their health at risk because they aren't eating a healthy diet," said Manley. "That's a big problem that requires enlisting help from many groups around the state to remove barriers and change systems, so that eating healthfully can be the easy choice. We look forward to working with these interests, and together, I'm confident we can make real progress."

Healthy Eating Minnesota is part of Blue Cross' Prevention Minnesota initiative. Funded by Blue Cross' settlement proceeds from its historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry, Prevention Minnesota works to tackle preventable heart disease and cancers by addressing their root causes -- physical inactivity, unhealthy eating and tobacco use. For more information on the Healthy Eating Minnesota contracts or Prevention Minnesota, visit http://www.bluecrossmn.com/preventionminnesota.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.9 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to http://www.bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.


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SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
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