Great news in nutrition and chronic disease prevention! This past Thursday, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation held a media event with the American Dietetic Association, medical associations, health insurers and major employers. This was to kick off the Alliance Healthcare Initiative, an effort to combat childhood obesity in the U.S. The plan is to offer comprehensive health benefits to children and their families to help prevent, assess and treat childhood obesity. In doing so, children and their families will be allowed Medical Nutrition Therapy with Registered Dietitians as part of their health insurance coverage.
As a result of this collaboration, several health insurance organizations have already added this expanded coverage, including Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and WellPoint. Corporations who have joined forces to offer these benefits to their employees are Owens Corning, PepsiCo and the American Heart Association. This initiative and coverage will include at least 4 visits with an RD and will be available to targeted groups in selected states. North Carolina is among one of these states.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a joint effort between American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation. The goal of the Alliance is to decrease the prevalence of childhood obesity in the U. S. by 2015 and to empower children to make healthy lifestyle choices. The Alliance strives to create a positive atmosphere in environments that impact children’s health such as homes, schools, restaurants, doctor’s offices and communities. For more information, you can visit their site at www.HealthierGeneration.org .
I am so thrilled that health insurance companies are beginning to realize how important it is to cover prevention of medical conditions. For so long, it has been only a reactionary approach. For example, Medicare will cover the cost of Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) but only for those who have a diagnosis of diabetes or chronic kidney disease. However, if Medicare were to reimburse for the cost of MNT in conditions such as obesity, hypertension or pre-diabetes, it is very likely that these beneficiaries would never develop a chronic disease such as diabetes or kidney disease. MNT works. We know this. It works by reducing chronic disease, slowing disease progression, decreasing symptoms and reducing both hospitalizations and prescription drug use. MNT also works by reducing health care costs. In fact, a 2001 Massachusetts General Hospital study found $4.28 in health care savings for every $1 spent on MNT.
If we can prevent problems before they occur, health care costs will be so much less. That is why this new initiative is such great news. Hopefully, other health insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, will realize this and follow suit.
It’s Your Health. It’s Your Life. Make That Change!