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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Announces Campaign to Address Childhood Obesity

Campaign goal is to help Illinois children live healthier lives

CHICAGO, March 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) today announced a new campaign to address childhood obesity in the state. BCBSIL will provide funding to bring together, strengthen, and advance existing programs and organizations that educate children and families about and promote proper nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyles.

Nearly 21 percent of Illinois children are overweight or obese and 18 percent are at risk for overweight, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health's 2003-2004 "Healthy Smiles -- Healthy Growth" survey. Very often, childhood overweight and obesity lead to adult overweight and obesity, which can cause a host of serious health problems ranging from diabetes and heart disease to depression.

"This campaign is part of Blue Cross' commitment to enhance the health and wellness of children in Illinois. Educating and giving children access to fun and motivating programs and activities will help them live healthier and more productive lives." BCBSIL president, Paul Boulis, said. "Given our longstanding history and the depth and breadth of our relationships with community-based organizations, providers, employers, state government, and the public at large, Blue Cross can make an impact on the long term health and wellness of our state with this program."

Moving toward the campaign, BCBSIL has been focusing resources on children's health programs

In 2007, BCBSIL made more than $3.5 million in charitable donations to nearly 350 qualified not-for-profit organizations statewide. A large portion of these dollars were used to support community-based health care and basic human services for the uninsured and underserved. In recent years, BCBSIL also has focused resources on educating and promoting health and wellness through sponsorships and partnerships with health clinics, school systems, public health departments, and a host of other community-based organizations. Examples of the kinds of programs Blue Cross supports include:

-- Bridge the Gap to Health Race (Quincy): Sponsorship of 5k and 10k runs raises money for the Catholic Charities' MedAssist Program, which provides prescription drugs at no cost to those in need. The sponsorship includes programs designed to help participants prepare and train for the race.

-- CareVan mobile health services (statewide): Three BCBSIL CareVans travel the state, providing basic health services, such as immunizations, blood pressure screenings, and dental sealants, to thousands of children and adults in underserved areas.

-- Organ Wise Guys (approximately 20 schools in state): A program in partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago's Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion, Organ Wise Guys educates elementary school children about their bodies and the impact of good nutrition and healthy behaviors.

-- Mayor's Cup Soccer Tournament and Mayor Daley's Holiday Sports Festival (Chicago): These events encourage and provide resources for children to be active.

In addition, BCBSIL recently joined the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children's (CLOCC) Corporate Advisory Committee. CLOCC brings together hundreds of organizations and individuals in Chicago to protect "Chicago children from the effects of the obesity epidemic."

"As a business leader in Illinois with relationships spanning all facets of the state's healthcare system, Blue Cross' involvement has the potential to significantly advance awareness and actions that address childhood obesity," Adam Becker, CLOCC executive director, said.

BCBSIL to help advance system to track Illinois children's health

Establishing a baseline and monitoring progress is integral to assessing the efficacy of statewide efforts to reduce childhood obesity. In fact, the state of Illinois requires that data, including height and weight, be recorded by physicians on the Certificate of Child Health Examination Form and submitted to schools before children enter kindergarten, sixth, and ninth grades. The state legislature mandated that these data be reported to the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health. To this end, BCBSIL has provided an additional $38,000 in funding to CLOCC for a summit designed to advance development of a database into which data from the form can be entered. The aggregate data would be used to establish a baseline and help track the progress of state-based initiatives over time.

With more than 7 million members, BCBSIL, a division of Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, is the largest health insurance company in Illinois. Started in 1936, BCBSIL is committed to promoting the health and wellness of its members and its communities through accessible, cost-effective, quality health care. BCBSIL is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois
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