UCare, Minnesota’s fourth largest health plan, is one of 15 community-based health plans across the United States profiled in the new “Challenge at a Local Level” report, published Jan. 11, 2011, by the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP). The document chronicles initiatives by the ACHP-member plans to engage their communities, members, and providers in combating the growing problem of childhood obesity.

Two UCare initiatives are featured in the national Pediatric Obesity” report: UCare’s LivingWell, UCare”s Healthy U Program (page 4) and UCare’s Ready, Get, Fit! Kit (page 12).

“UCare is committed to improving the health of our members and communities. We are hopeful that our work will inspire others to tackle the critical issue of obesity among children of all ages,” says Nancy Feldman, President and CEO. “We are taking important steps to help our young people grow up to be healthy adults, and avoid the health issues in adulthood that can result from excess weight in childhood.”

The report profiles UCare’s LivingWell program and UCare’s creation of a “portion plate.” The plate features three sections with child-oriented pictures that illustrate food choices and portion sizes. UCare distributes the plates to members and the public at health fairs and other community events to encourage healthy eating.

The report also profiles UCare’s Ready, Get, Fit! Kit, another LivingWell resource. UCare’s Health Promotion department developed family, yoga, and walking versions of the kit for UCare’s MinnesotaCare members. Designed for at-home use, the kits contain exercise tools such as pedometers, yoga mats, water bottles, and DVDs to encourage family exercise activity.

ACHP reports that, over the last 30 years, the rate of overweight or obese children has tripled. This trend represents a significant public health concern, as it holds severe health consequences for millions of children, including a higher risk of asthma, diabetes, liver disease, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, says ACHP, current data suggest that in 10 years, 43 percent of Americans may be obese. Data also show significant health care costs connected to obesity-related health care.

About UCare

UCare (www.ucare.org) is an independent, nonprofit health plan providing health care and administrative services to more than 200,000 members. UCare partners with health care providers, counties, and community organizations to create and deliver innovative health coverage products for:

  • Individuals and families enrolled in income-based Minnesota Health Care Programs, such as MinnesotaCare and Prepaid Medical Assistance Program.
  • Adults with disabilities and Medicare beneficiaries with chronic health conditions.
  • Minnesotans dually eligible for Medical Assistance and Medicare.
  • Medicare-eligible individuals throughout Minnesota and in western Wisconsin.

UCare addresses health care disparities and care access issues through its UCare Fund grants and a broad array of community initiatives. The health plan received a Top Workplaces 2010 honor from the Star Tribune.