Blue Cross and Blue Shield Expand Pediatric Partnership to Combat Childhood Obesity

WASHINGTON – In collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) launched the Good Health ClubSM Physician Toolkit – unique educational materials designed to foster better communication between pediatricians and their patients on childhood obesity and diabetes prevention.  The toolkit will be available to pediatricians in communities across the country.

The toolkit, developed in consultation with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), also builds on materials that Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have successfully used across the country to encourage healthy choices and behaviors for children.  The toolkit is available in both English and Spanish and contains tip sheets, wall posters, physician reference materials, tracking sheets, and brochures with educational information.  As part of the Blues’ commitment to making communities healthier, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies will make the toolkits available to pediatricians in their networks to use with all patients, not just Blue Cross and Blue Shield members. 

“As community-based health plans with nearly 80 years of experience in providing healthcare benefits, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have long pioneered innovative programs at the local level to help address childhood obesity and diabetes,” said Scott P. Serota, BCBSA president and CEO.  “The launch of the Good Health Club Physician Toolkit takes the fight against childhood obesity to a new level, by providing pediatricians with essential tools to encourage lifelong healthy living habits for America’s youth.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the last two decades type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes) has been reported among U.S. children and adolescents with increasing frequency.  One-in-three U.S. children born in 2000 could develop diabetes during their lifetime and the prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years, going from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 17 percent in 2006.

“Every 20 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes in the United States.  That’s 4,320 people every day.  It’s an epidemic,” said Larry Hausner, chief executive officer of the American Diabetes Association.  “We hope that programs such as the Pediatric Obesity and Diabetes Prevention Toolkit will emphasize the importance of healthy habits.  Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference to stop diabetes and its devastating complications.”

The Good Health Club Physician Toolkit features messages from the “Good Health Club,” a group of animal characters that encourages children to:

  • Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Limit screen time to 2 hours or less
  • Get at least 1 hour of physical activity
  • Limit sweetened drinks to 0

Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are making the toolkit available to physicians in time for back-to-school physician visits prior to the 2010-2011 school year.

BCBSA launched a pilot of the physician toolkits last year in collaboration with five Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies and the assistance of the Quality Improvement Innovation Network – a program of the AAP.

“The obesity epidemic threatens our health as a nation, with one-third of children in the US overweight or obese,” said Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Obesity Leadership Workgroup.  “The American Academy of Pediatrics applauds BCBSA for its important efforts to support healthcare professionals in preventing childhood obesity at the point of care.”

Physicians participating in the pilot were surveyed before and after using the toolkits and feedback from participating physicians was overwhelmingly positive – 79 percent considered the educational materials effective and 74 percent would recommend them to a colleague.  Sixty-nine percent of physicians said they discuss health habits with patients and their families more often and that the “5-2-1-0” message is in line with what they teach patients.

“During my 17 years of clinical practice I have seen a growing number of patients with negative health effects from obesity”, said Dr. Edie Bernosky, a pediatrician from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  “I have found the materials in the Good Health Club Physician Toolkit useful in motivating families to make lifestyle changes necessary for my patients to obtain healthier weights.  The messages help parents and children understand that there are specific things they can do to prevent obesity, and are ones that pediatricians can use in every well child examination.”

The Good Health Club Physician Toolkit supports the goals of the Obama administration’s efforts to curb childhood obesity.  As community-based health plans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have pioneered programs at the local level to help families exercise regularly and take charge of managing their overall health and well-being – many of these programs can help inform the Let’s Move! childhood obesity initiative.

“It is important to the future of our nation that we encourage healthy behaviors among our children such as regular physical activity and sound nutrition,” said Rear Admiral Penny

Slade-Sawyer.  “We are making progress towards creating a healthier generation by changing behaviors and attitudes that will help curb childhood obesity and diabetes through programs such as the First Lady’s Let’s Move! child obesity initiative and community efforts that partner with providers.”

The physician toolkit is the latest in a number of efforts Blue Plans have underway to combat childhood obesity and prevent diabetes.  A just-released compendium – Commitment to the Next Generation of Healthy Americans – details how Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies nationwide are leveraging local partnerships to build, design and support programs that target obesity and diabetes prevention.

One Blue program highlighted at the briefing today and included in the new compendium is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona’s WalkOn! Challenge, which encourages fifth graders statewide to exercise for at least 60 minutes every day for the entire month of February.  In the past five years, more than 170,000 children have participated in this school-based program and logged more than 781.6 million minutes of exercise.  The program was designed to engage teachers and schools as an integral part of the initiative, and help incorporate relevant educational materials into curricula, set up activity programs and encourage student participation.

To view the Good Health Club Physician Toolkit and for more information about what the Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are doing in their communities to combat childhood obesity and diabetes, please visit

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 39 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 100 million members – one-in-three of all Americans.  For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield press release

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