Friday, March 24, 2017

2017 Health Bee competitions make learning about health fun for NJ seventh-graders

UnitedHealthcare's annual Health Bee competitions teach middle school students valuable lessons about healthy living while creating some spirited fun. For the past eight years, the quiz show-style events have engaged children in friendly competition and let them showcase their knowledge of different health and wellness topics. Each event highlights the dynamic partnership UnitedHealthcare has with the YMCA and their support of the Y's 7th Grade Initiative, an effort to engage youth in cultivating healthy behaviors that will last into adulthood. 

The pre-teen years are a critical time to develop healthy habits such as physical activity, which has declined in New Jersey, according to the most recent America’s Health Rankings® Annual ReportAt each Health Bee, teams of middle school students answer questions on nutrition, exercise and science for a chance to win prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250 to support health and fitness programs at their schools. 

Fanwood Scotch Plains
The Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA hosted the first New Jersey Health Bee of 2017. The competition, which took place on March 23, featured students from Carl H Kumpf, Park, St. John the Apostle and Terrill middle schools. I was proud to have kicked things off by sharing my take on the importance of adopting healthy habits early in life with the students, parents and peers who were present for the event. Congratulations to Kumpf Middle School, whose students won the competition and earned $1,000 towards their school’s health and wellness programs. Congratulations also to Park Middle School on landing second place and Terrill Middle School for showing the most school spirit.

Carl H. Kumpf Middle School students took home a grand prize of $1,000 after winning the title of 2017 UnitedHealthcare Health Bee champions on March 23 at the Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA. This money will go towards implementing a health and wellness program at their school to combat rising childhood obesity rates. 
Photo Credit: Chris Gregory, Clutch Shot Productions, L.L.C.

Westfield YMCA
The Westfield YMCA hosted UnitedHealthcare’s second Health Bee of 2017 on April 4. The competition featured students from seven middle schools including Deerfield, Edison Intermediate, Hillside Avenue, Lincoln, Orange Avenue, Roosevelt Intermediate and St. Michael's. John Verga, vice president of UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey, kicked off the competition by sharing the importance of adopting healthy habits early in life with the students, parents and peers who were present for the event. Ali Caldwell, a top-12 finalist on season 11 of NBC’s “The Voice” and a New Jersey native, did an amazing job as moderator for the event. The competition was tight and we had a tie for first place between St. Michael’s School and Edison Intermediate School. Both teams earned a grand prize of $1,000 to fund health and wellness programs. In addition, Roosevelt Intermediate School won a $250 prize for showing the most school spirit.

Ali Caldwell, a top-12 finalist on season 11 of NBC’s “The Voice,” returned to her home state to host the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee. With fond memories of growing up at the YMCA, Caldwell was impressed by the health smarts of seventh graders who participated in the annual quiz-style competition at the Westfield YMCA on April 4. Photo Credit: Chris Gregory, Clutch Shot Productions, L.L.C.

Gateway Family YMCA
UnitedHealthcare's third New Jersey Health Bee of 2017, co-hosted by the Gateway Family YMCA, took place at Donald Stewart School No. 51. Six middle schools from Union County participated in the bee, including Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Orlando Edreira, Elmora, Madison Monroe, William F. Halloran and Terence Ce. Reilly. For the second time this year, I kicked off a Health Bee in the state by saying a few words about the importance of healthy living and how crucial it is to adopt healthy habits when you are young. Each of the student teams showed not only passion for health, exercise and nutrition, but also a keen knowledge of these topics. Congratulations are in order for William F. Halloran Middle School, who took home first place and a grand prize of $1,000 in funding for a health and wellness program at the school. Madison Monroe won second place and a prize of $500, while the school spirit award of $250 went out to Terence C. Reilly. 

Teams of seventh-grade students from Union County listen closely as their fingers hover over their buzzers at the May 3 UnitedHealthcare Health Bee, held at Donald Stewart School No. 51. The students rose to the challenge, demonstrating a keen knowledge of fitness, nutrition, and healthy living. Photo credit: Chris Gregory, Clutch Shot Productions, L.L.C.

Somerset County YMCA
The Hillsborough YMCA, a Somerset County YMCA branch, hosted three teams of talented young 7th grade students for the fourth New Jersey Health Bee of the year. Bernardsvile Middle School, Mendham Country Day School and Hillsborough Middle School all competed in the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee for a chance to win a $1,000 to fund a school health and wellness program. Once again, I had the pleasure of kicking off the event by sharing my take on the importance of healthy living. It was truly inspiring to witness how focused and dedicated these middle school students were, and you can tell each of them wanted that grand prize. In the end, Bernardsville Middle School took home the $1,000 grant, while Mendham Country Day School took home second place and $500. Hillsborough Middle School received the school spirit award, which came with a $250 prize. Many thanks to all the students who participated. 

The final New Jersey Health Bee of 2017 took place at Edgar Middle School in Metuchen. Edgar, Hoover, South Amboy and Woodrow Wilson middle schools all competed in the quiz show-style competition, showing their pride and school spirit throughout the entire contest. We are grateful to the YMCA of Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge and South Amboy (MEWSA) for helping us host this highly successful event. When all the scores were tallied up, Woodrow Wilson Middle School had the most points and earned the $1,000 grand prize to help fund a health and wellness program. Edgar Middle School earned the second-place prize of $500, while South Amboy won the school spirit award and $250. Congratulations! 

Classmates at Herbert Hoover Middle School show their school spirit as they cheer at the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee competition in Metuchen on May 15. Students from Edgar, Hoover, South Amboy and Woodrow Wilson competed in the quiz show-style competition designed to get middle-school students excited to learn about health, fitness and nutrition. Photo credit: Chris Gregory, Clutch Shot Productions, L.L.C.

All of our 2017 Health Bees could not have been a success without the enthusiasm of the students, parents, moderators, and audience members who attended each event. Of course, we give our participating YMCA partners a big thank you and round of applause for their support and hard work coordinating these events. We hope each student came away from the event with a sense of accomplishment, and a reassurance that they learned something new through these friendly and spirited competitions.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Five health care trends to watch in 2017

As we near the end of the first quarter, it is clear that 2016 health care technologies and trends will continue to evolve this year. Innovations like telemedicine and wearable gadgets are already making care more efficient and convenient, while workplace wellness programs, comparison shopping and value-based care plans are giving people greater control of the care they receive. Consumers can benefit from understanding these trends and potentially utilizing them to help manage their health care.  

Experts estimate that as many as 70 percent of doctor and ER visits are non-emergencies and potentially could be handled through virtual consultation. New mobile apps enable people to meet with a primary care physician with the goal of providing not only convenience but also affordability. The cost of a video-based virtual visit is usually less than $50 and may provide significant savings when compared to costs for similar minor medical needs treated at a doctor’s office (approximately $80), urgent care facility (approximately $160) or emergency room (approximately $650), according to UnitedHealthcare claims data.

Wearable Devices
While recent innovations in audio and video technology are allowing people to obtain a diagnosis and necessary prescriptions for minor medical needs, the wearable technology market is also rapidly advancing. The industry’s value is expected to reach $31.2 billion by the end of 2020, according to a recent report by research firm MarketsandMarkets. This is good news for consumers, as wearable devices track their daily steps, monitor their heart rates and analyze sleep patterns.

Workplace Wellness Programs
Many employers are even incorporating wearables into their workplace wellness initiatives. By 2018, companies are expected to include more than 13 million wearable and fitness tracking devices into their programs, according to technology consultancy firm Endeavors Partners. Besides fitness trackers, some employers offer other wellness incentives, which can include gift cards, lower health insurance premiums, cash bonuses and discounts on gym memberships. An estimated 70 percent of employers already offer wellness programs, and a recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that more than 60 percent of employers said their workplace wellness program reduced health care costs overall.

Comparison Shopping
The ability to compare health plan offerings is also giving consumers more control over their health care. With a growing number of Americans now enrolled in consumer-directed health plans, more people (32 percent) are using websites and mobile apps to comparison shop for health care, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to the recent UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey.

Value-based Care
Many of these same health plans are increasingly using value-based care arrangements, a shift away from the common fee-for-service structure in which a care provider is paid separately for each treatment, appointment or test during a treatment plan. Typically, this would generate multiple claims within a single, broader episode of care. Under value-based care arrangements, providers are paid for value over volume. Employers offering value-based care have recorded an average savings of $10,000 or more per operation when compared with median costs in the same metropolitan area. Meanwhile, employees having the same operation may save $1,000 in lower out-of-pocket costs when accessing an in-network facility that accepts bundled payments.

Today, consumers have greater control over their health than ever before. From comparison shopping for plans and providers, to utilizing devices to track their own health, consumers can easily find the best choices for their family’s needs. By understanding the variety of options available, they can maximize the value they derive from their health coverage this year.