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Blue Cross Teams up With Eight Groups to Address Obesity, Lower Minnesotans' Health Risks by Promoting Healthy Eating

Thursday, November 20, 2008 General News J E 4
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EAGAN, Minn., Nov. 19 Blue Cross and Blue Shield ofMinnesota (Blue Cross) announced today it will invest up to $650,000 inadditional funds from its tobacco settlement to promote healthier eating andimprove health in the state next year. Eight local organizations have beenselected to work with Blue Cross over the next few years to help improveeating habits and reduce illness and costs related to poor eating and obesity.They will receive Healthy Eating Minnesota contracts to create grassrootsinitiatives designed to make it easier for Minnesotans to eat healthy foods,especially fruits and vegetables. The contracts are awarded as part of BlueCross' healthy eating initiative announced earlier this month, which aims todouble the number of Minnesotans who eat five or more daily servings of fruitsand vegetables. Other components of the healthy eating initiative include anadvertising campaign called Every Helping Helps and workplace projects.

Research shows eating more fruits and vegetables provides valuable healthbenefits. Fruits and vegetables in a diet help protect against heart diseaseand some cancers, help manage diabetes and weight, lower cholesterol and bloodpressure, and reduce the likelihood of heart attack or stroke. "Two-thirds ofadult Minnesotans are overweight or obese," noted Marc Manley, M.D., vicepresident and medical director of population health at Blue Cross. "If trendscontinue unchecked, obesity will add nearly $1 billion to Minnesota's totalhealth care costs by 2010, and $3.7 billion by 2020. By investing inprevention and looking for ways to make it easier to eat healthfully,Minnesota stands to save significant health care dollars, and moreimportantly, lives."

The following eight Healthy Eating Minnesota recipients will receivecontracts in the range of $75,000 to $125,000 for their work on healthyeating:

-- Dakota County Public Health Department -- partnering with localorganizations, including five K-12 school districts, to improve food policiesfor more than 31,000 students and staff

-- Farmers' Legal Action Group, Inc. -- undertaking projects to promotelocal food production and preservation of farmland, including Scott County andimmigrant farm communities

-- Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy -- undertaking multipleurban and statewide projects such as working with school districts, urbancorner stores, and creating small-scale urban farming

-- Land Stewardship Project -- working in West Central Minnesota to ensurethat residents can access healthy, locally grown food instead of driving greatdistances to the nearest grocer

-- Hennepin County -- partnering with seven local organizations toidentify strategies to improve healthy food offerings throughout HennepinCounty, with a focus on low socioeconomic populations

-- NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, Inc. -- working in NorthMinneapolis neighborhoods to address the lack of access to fresh, healthyfoods available to residents

-- University of Minnesota, Morris -- working to expand access to, andavailability of fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods on campus,within greater Morris, and in Stevens County

-- West Metro Medical Society -- working in Minneapolis and HennepinCounty to ensure residents receive information to make healthy eatingdecisions, and to improve access to fruit and vegetables in hospitalcafeterias and the community at large

Contingent upon successful negotiation, Healthy Eating Minnesotarecipients will begin their work in early 2009. Learnings from each of theprojects will be shared with other communities across the state.

"Unhealthy eating and physical inactivity combined are the second leadingcause of preventable death and disease in our state, and today 80 percent ofMinnesotans put their health at risk because they aren't eating a healthydiet," said Manley. "That's a big problem that requires enlisting help frommany groups around the state to remove barriers and change systems, so thateating healthfully can be the easy choice. We look forward to working withthese interests, and together, I'm confident we can make real progress."

Healthy Eating Minnesota is part of Blue Cross' Prevention Minnesotainitiative. Funded by Blue Cross' settlement proceeds from its historiclawsuit against the tobacco industry, Prevention Minnesota works to tacklepreventable heart disease and cancers by addressing their root causes --physical inactivity, unhealthy eating and tobacco use. For more information onthe Healthy Eating Minnesota contracts or Prevention Minnesota, visithttp://www.bluecrossmn.com/preventionminnesota.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paulsuburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan andcontinues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, moreeconomical and timely availability of health services for the people ofMinnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest healthplan based in Minnesota, covering 2.9 million members in Minnesota andnationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliatedcompanies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licenseeof the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go tohttp://www.bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield ofMinnesota.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
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