Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Helps Doctors To Combat Childhood Obesity

PITTSBURGH, June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 15 percent or about 9 million of 6 to 19-year-old children are considered obese in the United States. Studies also suggest that overweight teenagers have an 80 percent chance of becoming overweight adults. Because of these alarming trends, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has been taking the lead locally to forge a regional strategy to combat this national epidemic.

Since November 2002, Highmark has been convening physicians, community leaders, educators and policymakers in an effort to determine barriers to change, and more importantly, to facilitate solutions to address childhood obesity in Western Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, June 23, Highmark held its third childhood obesity forum to report back to the community on new strategies and approaches that can help guide the region to becoming more healthy and active.

"Because obesity is a complex issue, we recognized it would take the cooperation of many individuals, local groups and community support to develop a realistic plan of action to combat this preventable and treatable condition," said Aaron Walton, senior vice president of corporate affairs at Highmark. "We believe that by helping to orchestrate this local, grassroots effort, we will make a difference creating healthier lifestyles for the children of our communities."

One of the many outcomes of this regional strategy has been the development and distribution of a new resource tool kit for physicians. The kit serves two purposes: to provide doctors with resources, educational background and guidelines for both preventing and treating obesity among their pediatric patients and make available resources they can share with parents to practice healthy eating and active living at home.

"Approaching families about weight issues has been historically difficult for physicians. The kit will arm doctors with the information on this important health crisis that will assist them in beginning a discussion with parents," said Donald Fischer, MD, medical director at Highmark. "This kit is an excellent start to educating both parents and doctors on how to best treat and prevent childhood obesity."

Included in the kit is a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator and growth charts, which are key tools in assessing whether children are overweight or at-risk for becoming overweight. Take-home, self-help materials for parents provide proper diet guidelines and concrete suggestions that encourage family physical activity.

Lists of both local and national resources are provided that list resources for treatment, recreation, nutrition education and general information on obesity. A local resource, KidShape(R), a nationally recognized, family-based pediatric weight management program, is highlighted for doctors to promote to their patients and families. Highmark currently sponsors seven KidShape sites throughout Western Pennsylvania with more planned in the coming months.

There are also public awareness posters aimed at parents. These posters illustrate the serious adult health conditions overweight children can develop earlier in life as compared to normal weight children.

Over the next few weeks, these kits will be distributed to more than 2,000 doctors in Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield's 29-county service area.

Also during the June 23 Forum, Highmark unveiled a prototype of a similar tool kit for the community that has been researched and created by regional leaders. The kit focuses on best practice modules for creating a built environment that supports healthier eating and increased physical movement in communities.

To learn more about Highmark's other childhood obesity initiatives, to speak with a member of the Childhood Obesity Regional Strategy Committee or to receive a tool kit, please call Scott Henry at (412) 544-8971.

For more information about Highmark, visit http://www.highmark.com/ .

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield

CONTACT: Scott Henry of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield,+1-412-544-8971, or scott.henry@highmark.com

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