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National Childhood Obesity Program, Join for Me, Launching for Johnson and Whandotte Counties of Kansas as Part of KanCare

Enrollment open now for Medicaid-eligible children ages 6-17 to participate in evidence-based, family-engaged program offered in four Kansas City locations

Overland Park, KS (April 1, 2013)– JOIN for ME, a proven community-based, childhood weight-management and lifestyle-intervention program, is designed for children ages 6-17 and their families. All KanCare Medicaid members that have chosen UnitedHealthcare as their Medicaid benefits provider currently or prior to the April 4, 2013, deadline are eligible to participate at no charge.

JOIN for ME focuses on improving the health of the entire family that struggles with extra weight, underscoring the importance of social structures in lifestyle modification and behavior change.

JOIN for ME is open to enrollees now. Classes will be held on a rolling and continual basis with new participants as they sign up. Four locations will offer the program and classes: Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City - Wyandotte County Unit in the Breidenthal Community Center for Youth &Families in Kansas City, Kan.; Center of Grace in Olathe, Kan.; and Argentine Community Center in Kansas City, Kan.

“Children who are overweight and clinically obese often want to lose weight, but don’t know how to go about it,” said Dr. William Downham, chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Kansas. “JOIN for ME provides children with an engaging and practical solution that involves the entire family in adopting healthy eating and activity. We have seen that through this program, multiple members of the family can lose weight by making small changes in their daily routines.”

UnitedHealthcare has appointed Renee Arensberg, LCSW, CWC, to serve full-time as Wellness Coach & Community Liaison for the JOIN for ME program in Kansas. Arensbeg, who previously worked at Children’s Mercy Family Health Partners, is recognized statewide as an area expert in nutrition and health. In addition, community outreach teams are working with area physicians and organizations to share information about the program.

National Epidemic Acutely Felt in Kansas

About one-third of all American children are obese or overweight, leading to increased health risks, higher health care costs and decreased parental productivity at work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States – nearly triple the rate from just 30 years ago – according to the CDC.

According to the 2012 America’s Health Rankings®, Kansas ranked no. 24 out of all 50 states, and Kansas has one of the highest obesity rates in the country, with more than 630,000 obese adults.

Top Four Health Consequences of Childhood Obesity

1. Heart Disease Risk Factors: Children and teens that carry excess weight are at greater risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Both increase the risk for heart disease.

2. Asthma: Asthma is a disease of the lungs in which the airways become blocked or narrowed, causing breathing difficulty. Children with excess weight are more likely to suffer from asthma.

3. Sleep Apnea: Overweight children and teens are at higher risk for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is the stopping of breathing during sleep. Breathing breaks last for at least 10 seconds, happen repeatedly and are associated with significant drops in oxygen. Signs of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.

4. Type 2 Diabetes: Obesity has led to increased rates of type 2 diabetes among youth. At one time, Type 2 diabetes was very rare before adulthood. This is no longer true. The number of people in the United States diagnosed with diabetes is growing – on average by 1.5 million people per year.

Diabetes can result in heart, eye, kidney and circulation problems as well as reduced life expectancy. Signs of type 2 diabetes include excessive thirst, excessive urination and fatigue.

Obese children and adolescents also have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood. Childhood obesity also represents a significant financial cost to families, communities, employers, public health programs and the health care system. A study conducted for one large employer indicated that average per capita health insurance claims costs were as high as $2,907 in 2008 for an obese child and $10,789 for a child with type 2 diabetes, which is even higher than the average claims cost for adults with type 2 diabetes ($8,844).

Results and Background

A JOIN for ME pilot with the Y of the USA and the YMCA of Greater Providence, R.I., helped participants achieve clinically significant reductions in excess weight and quality of life improvements. A report on the pilot results was published in the October 2012 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics.

After the pilot, 10 percent fewer of the children who participated were obese. This means that if the program were scaled nationally, there is the potential to make tremendous health and economic impacts.

After six months, 84 percent of the original 155 participants in the pilot completed the full program and achieved, on average, a 3.5 percent reduction in excess weight. Equally promising is that parents of participants also lost weight in the study, opening the door for new wellness models that engage the entire family.

JOIN for ME was developed by UnitedHealth Group together with a scientific advisory board, including Gary Foster, Ph.D., professor of Medicine and Public Health and director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University.

How to Join - JOIN for ME

KanCare Medicaid beneficiaries that are currently enrolled or elect to enroll in the UnitedHealthcare plan prior to the April 4, 2013, deadline are eligible and covered by UnitedHealthcare Community Plan. To enroll, find out more or make a referral, call 1-877-554-3755.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 780,000 physicians and other care professionals and 5,900 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide.

UnitedHealthcare serves more than 40 million people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.

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