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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Recognized at Highest Level as an American Heart Association Start! Fit-Friendly Company

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 General News J E 4
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Start! helps companies take steps to decrease healthcare expenses, increase productivity

EAGAN, Minn., Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) has been recognized as a Start! Fit-Friendly Company by the American Heart Association (association) at the highest level possible – platinum. The award is part of the association’s Start! movement for helping employees eat better and move more.  

“Helping our members and our employees lead healthy lives is at the core of what we do every day at Blue Cross. It’s an honor to have our employee wellness efforts recognized at the platinum level by the American Heart Association,” said Patrick Geraghty, president and CEO. “We have a long history of providing a workplace environment that encourages healthy habits such as physical activity, because it benefits our employees’ health, improves productivity, and it helps control our health care costs.”

Blue Cross was recognized as a platinum-level employer- for its work in these areas:

  • Offering employees physical activity options in the workplace
  • Increasing healthy eating options at the worksite
  • Promoting a wellness culture in the workplace
  • Implementing at least nine criteria outlined by the association in the areas of physical activity, nutrition and culture
  • Demonstrate measurable outcomes related to workplace wellness

Blue Cross offers a variety of at-work wellness programs to make a healthy difference in employees’ lives. These initiatives include walking paths, stop smoking support, free onsite fitness center and low-cost classes, access to Weight Watchers, fitness center discounts and a wellness discount on medical plan premiums. One example of a new program that is working is Blue Cross’ Wellness Wednesdays, whereby the cost of a healthy meal in the campus cafeteria is subsidized to incent employees to make a healthy choice. In addition, overall participation in Blue Cross’ many wellness programs increased to 71 percent of all employees, up 11 percent from 2007.

The Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program is a catalyst for positive change in the American workforce by helping companies make their employees’ health and wellness a priority.

American employers face increasing healthcare expenses and health-related losses in productivity that cost an estimated $225.8 billion a year. Many American adults spend most of their waking hours at sedentary jobs. Their lack of physical activity raises their risk for a host of medical problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Employers face $12.7 billion in annual medical expenses due to obesity alone. Start! helps change corporate cultures by motivating employees to start walking, which has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity.

In addition to public recognition, participating companies also get free access to program resources such as the free Start! Walking Program, materials to help promote company wellness programs to employees, and consultation on CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) programs. Start! also offers MyStart! Online, a free Web-based fitness and nutrition tracker for companies and individuals.

“The Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program offers a unique, easy-to-implement opportunity for corporations to increase employees’ physical activity, which will help improve their health – and their employers’ bottom line,” said Kim Friend, Vice President of the Twin Cities Start! Heart Walk. “Even people who haven’t exercised regularly until middle age can reap significant benefits by starting a walking program.”

Start! is sponsored nationally by SUBWAY(R) Restaurants, Healthy Choice(R) and AstraZeneca, and locally by U.S. Bank. For more information about the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program and how it is helping to improve the health of Americans by focusing on an activity that is convenient, free and easy, call 952-835-3300 or visit www.mystartonline.org or www.heart.org/startTwinCities.

About the American Heart Association

Founded in 1924, we’re the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke.  To help prevent, treat and defeat these diseases — America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers — we fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health.  To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit americanheart.org.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.8 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

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