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Highmark Provides Pediatricians With Resources to Combat Childhood Obesity
Date:7/27/2009

PITTSBURGH, July 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Childhood obesity causes lifelong illness, leads to serious health complications in young adults and can lead to premature death in adulthood due to medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. In addition to its significant human toll, childhood obesity alone costs the nation's health care system some $14 billion annually.

To address the continued tide of obesity in children, Highmark is providing a new Childhood Obesity Physician Toolkit to more than 3,500 family practice doctors, pediatricians and pediatric specialists in Central and Western Pennsylvania. The toolkit, created in partnership with health care professionals, contains best practices on the assessment and treatment of childhood obesity, guidelines and tips for parents on nutrition and activity, as well as resources to help physicians better address obesity issues within their practice.

"Childhood obesity is an epidemic that requires coordination and collaboration," said Dr. Mary Goessler, a pediatrician and Highmark medical director. "We believe that providing doctors with the toolkit will help them ensure a healthy future for the 33 percent of Pennsylvania's youth who are considered to be overweight or obese."

Data shows that children diagnosed with obesity are two to three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital than nonobese children, making health care costs for obese children about three times more expensive than an average-weight child.

"The toolkit represents a partnership between Highmark and the pediatric community and will go a long way in helping us to improve identification of obesity with its complications and resources to help treat them," said Dr. Ronald Williams, a pediatrician at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

This is the second edition of the Childhood Obesity Physician Toolkit, which was first created in 2004 through collaboration with physicians in practice. Led by Highmark, the group participated in a community-focused discussion on the emerging childhood obesity epidemic and recognized the need to provide physicians with tools.

Updates to the toolkit include more robust content to assist physicians in the early identification and treatment of overweight and obese children, as well as charts and other resources to assess risks for comorbid conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Tips for beginning a dialog with parents about their child's weight and associated health risks are also provided.

In addition to Highmark's focus on childhood obesity through the toolkit for physicians, the company's $100 million contribution to the Highmark Foundation for Highmark Healthy High 5 is enabling the foundation to fund thousands of school- and community-based programs throughout Central and Western Pennsylvania aimed at providing tools, resources and free opportunities to teach children about good nutrition and the importance of physical activity.

About Highmark Inc.

As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.6 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.


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SOURCE Highmark Inc.
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