PITTSBURGH, Nov. 29, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Thirty-nine percent of the children living in Pennsylvania are overweight and are at greater risk of developing such chronic diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease than the generation before them. To continue its efforts to address childhood obesity, Highmark Inc. has collaborated with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to expand its obesity benefits for children in 2011.
"Highmark has signed on to collaborate with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Health Care Initiative to support the goal to provide a holistic approach to the prevention, assessment and treatment of childhood obesity through multiple avenues, including health insurance offerings," said Dr. Donald R. Fischer, Highmark's chief medical officer. "More than 500,000 children will have access to this important care through Highmark. By decreasing the health risks of children, we decrease the number of children who will most likely develop into unhealthy adults. Highmark's commitment to this endeavor is an investment in the health of the entire community."
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit organization founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, works to positively affect the places that can make a difference to a child's health -- homes, schools, doctors' offices and communities.
"We know that our network physicians are equally concerned about childhood obesity and represent a valuable resource of expertise and caring," added Dr. Fischer. "Highmark's participation in this initiative is helping to remove some barriers so that our network physicians can provide the optimal health care and guidance needed to address obesity."
Starting Jan. 1, 2011, children ages 3 to 18 with a BMI over the 85th percentile for their age are eligible to receive the benefits and will be automatically enrolled. Through a preventive health benefit plan, eligible children will receive a minimum of four follow-up visits with their primary care provider (or other health care professional), along with four visits with a registered dietitian.
"Without proper prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, our current generation could become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents," said Ginny Ehrlich, Alliance for a Healthier Generation executive director. "We applaud Highmark for making this ongoing commitment to help reverse the childhood obesity epidemic."
Highmark has had a deep history in promoting children's health. The collaboration with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation will serve as a complement to the existing programs, services and funding that Highmark has been providing to address this national issue. The alliance's goal of providing comprehensive health benefits for the prevention, assessment and treatment of childhood obesity aligns with Highmark's mission and the Highmark Healthy High 5 initiative to promote lifelong healthy behaviors in children and adolescents.
Highmark values the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's long-term goal that more than 6 million children, or 25 percent of all overweight and obese children in the United States, will have access to this benefit by 2012.
The picture above shows a timeline of Highmark's history in addressing childhood obesity.
SOURCE Highmark Inc.