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UniCare of West Virginia Providing Assistance for Asthma Education Training

Well-known for its Weight Watchers program and obesity training, state's largest Medicaid managed care plan now collaborating with the American Lung Association to provide medical professionals the opportunity to become

certified in conducting Breathe Well, Live Well program

CHARLESTON, W.Va., March 12 /PRNewswire/ -- With West Virginians continuing to rank among the highest in the country in asthma prevalence, UniCare Health Plan of West Virginia, Inc. (UniCare) continues to be an innovator for proactive health solutions. The American Lung Association of West Virginia (ALAWV) is conducting an asthma education training session today, and UniCare is drawing from its vast health care network to provide health professionals from across the state to participate.

The training is part of a national effort by the American Lung Association that aims to reduce illness and disability due to asthma by training health care professionals to conduct workshops with the intent of improving asthma knowledge and self-management skills. Breathe Well, Live Well is the title of the effort and is based upon an intervention program developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Lung Health Center.

Similar to efforts involving the innovative Weight Watchers collaboration and obesity training for West Virginia physicians and clinical staff, UniCare recognized a serious problem and took the means to help alleviate the situation. It's the first major effort in UniCare's newest campaign, "Educate and Innovate in '08."

"Although many people may not realize, the CDC has provided information that states West Virginia has one of the highest asthma rates in the nation," said Mitch Collins, regional director for UniCare. "The workshops that will be conducted as a result of this training will help not only UniCare members, but all West Virginians needing help in these areas of the state."

When people complete the Breathe Well, Live Well training, they are then required to conduct a workshop at least once per year. These workshops are open to the public and designed to educate asthmatics, parents of asthmatics or anyone else wishing to learn more about asthma identification and management.

In addition to sponsoring the individuals that participate in the training, UniCare takes it a step further by offering medical clinics and primary care associations the opportunity to be compensated for the actual workshops conducted. It is UniCare's policy to pay these organizations for education classes given to UniCare members.

"It's a win-win situation for everyone involved," said Collins.

A quick look at asthma statistics in West Virginia shows the great need for such an effort :

-- Approximately 8.5 percent of West Virginians currently have asthma.

This equals approximately 123,000 adults and 31,000 children. (WVDHHR,

The Burden of Asthma in West Virginia, 2007)

-- West Virginia children had the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in

the nation in 2003. (ALA, Asthma in Children Fact Sheet, August 2006)

-- West Virginia adults aged 65 and older had the third highest rate of

asthma in the nation in 2006. (West Virginia Health Care Authority,

UB-92 data)

-- 19.4 percent of adults with asthma visited an emergency room or urgent

care center because of their asthma in the past year. (Behavioral Risk

Factor Surveillance System)

"This is the first time the Breathe Well, Live Well training is being offered in West Virginia," said Jessica Isner, lung health program specialist for ALAWV. "To have UniCare, the largest Medicaid Managed Care Plan in the state, participate has been great when it comes to extending the program's reach as far as possible."

The organizations UniCare will sponsor for the training are:

-- Braxton County Health Department; Sutton, WV

-- Bluestone Health Center; Princeton, WV

-- Clay Primary Care Center; Clay, WV

-- Lincoln Primary Care Center; Hamlin, WV

-- Shenandoah Valley Medical Center; Martinsburg, WV

About UniCare

UniCare serves 1.6 million medical members and is an operating subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc., the largest publicly traded commercial health benefits company in terms of membership in the United States. WellPoint offers a broad spectrum of quality network-based health products including open access PPO, POS and hybrid products, HMO and specialty products. Specialty products include pharmacy benefit management, dental, utilization management, vision, mental health, life and disability insurance, long term care insurance, flexible spending accounts, COBRA administration, and Medicare supplements. UniCare can be found on the web at .

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