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Press Release

Independence Blue Cross renews Health eTools for Schools for another year

Web-based program helps more than 700 area schools better manage the health of 384,000 students

Philadelphia, PA - September 8, 2010 - Independence Blue Cross (IBC) announced that it is renewing its support for Health eTools for Schools® for the 2010-2011 school year, making the web-based program available at no cost to more than 700 area private, public, charter, and parochial schools in the Philadelphia five-county area. IBC has funded the program since 2007 to help teachers, nurses, and school administrators improve students' food choices, provide quality physical activities, and more easily comply with federal and state mandates for measuring body mass index (BMI).

We are pleased that so many area schools have embraced this program and view it as an important way to improve student health and fitness," said Richard Snyder, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer for Independence Blue Cross. "We're very concerned about the growing number of kids who are overweight or obese, which is reaching epidemic proportions. Overweight children not only have an increased risk of developing diabetes, asthma, and emotional problems, but they are also absent from school more often than other children, have lower self esteem, and have a harder time learning."

"This multifaceted program increases our efficiency, helps keep us informed about new information on health and wellness, and greatly eases the burden of preparing state-required letters and reports about student health," said Judy Bomze, director of Pupil Services for Abington School District, which has used eTools for three years. "Our nurses get to spend more time with students and less time collecting information and paperwork, which are huge benefits to us and to our students."

How eTools works

Health eTools for Schools works in a variety of ways to improve student wellness including:

  • simplifying the collection and tracking of critical health information through handheld devices that can upload information immediately to online student records. This includes BMI (body mass index), which schools must measure and report to parents annually;
  • coordinating efforts between school personnel and families to help schools improve student wellness and combat obesity with a collaborative approach;
  • educating students and parents about making good decisions about diet and exercise and the importance of adopting healthy behaviors early in life;
  • expanding the health information that teachers have to instruct students about good health and incorporate health and fitness into student studies as often as possible.

"We are pleased to continue our partnership with Independence Blue Cross, and we appreciate their proactive support in helping address the issues relating to student health and, in particular, childhood obesity," said Robert G. Gillio, M.D., president and chief medical officer for InnerLink, Inc. "Since its inception, Health eTools has been rapidly embraced across Pennsylvania and is presently helping approximately 850,000 students throughout the state learn how to adopt healthy lifestyles for a lifetime."

The IBC subsidy for Health eTools for Schools is made through a licensing agreement with InnerLink, Inc., which developed the Web tool for the Highmark Foundation, a charitable organization and affiliate of Highmark Inc.

The content for the Health eTools for Schools programs are aligned with Pennsylvania academic standards, and proven through scientific trial to foster improved nutrition and better understanding of the importance of exercise. Content from national partners such as the National Institutes of Health enables districts to bring nutrition and physical education concepts alive for students in grades K-12.

Fighting obesity on many fronts

So profound is the obesity epidemic among children that earlier this year First Lady Michelle Obama launched a national campaign that seeks to wipe out childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.  The campaign provides step-by-step strategies for families, schools, and communities to help kids be more active, eat better, and grow up healthy. In addition, the Senate passed a new bill - Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act - earlier this month to improve the overall healthfulness of school food.

Locally, IBC is committed to improving the health of children and young adults through a number of initiatives in addition to its support of Health eTools for Schools:

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, Independence Blue Cross and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.3 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross's HMO and PPO health care plans have consistently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

About InnerLink, Inc.

Headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, InnerLink, Inc., is a developer of innovative Web-based solutions that help communities learn and apply healthy behaviors to prevent chronic diseases. With expertise in coordinated school health, electronic health records management and health literacy, InnerLink is a proven partner working with sponsors, schools and communities to improve health outcomes. For more information, visit www.theinnerlink.com.

Health eTools for Schools is a registered mark of the Highmark Foundation. Highmark is a registered mark of Highmark Inc.

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