WellPoint offers tips on discussing obesity

THOUSAND OAKS, CA: WellPoint, working in partnership with the American Dietetic Association (ADA), has developed a print and web-based guide to facilitate communication between healthcare professionals and families about child obesity.

THOUSAND OAKS, CA: WellPoint, working in partnership with the American Dietetic Association (ADA), has developed a print and web-based guide to facilitate communication between healthcare professionals and families about child obesity.

The resource, Health Habits for Healthy Kids, provides recommendations from registered dieticians on how doctors and nurses can offer patients strategies for engaging entire

families in healthy eating and physical activity.

"This is a white-coat - not blue-suit - strategy," explained Ken Ferber, staff VP of corporate communications for WellPoint. "Our role in corporate communications is to be the producer. We're disseminating medical directors and healthcare professionals - the white coats - to do the messaging."

Ferber noted that the medical community's involvement brings credibility to the campaign, something with which the health-insurance industry has historically struggled.

To encourage people to use the guide, it will be mentioned at earnings calls, investor presentations, and during classes taught by WellPoint's medical directors. It "will permeate all other initiatives at WellPoint," said Heather Rim, WellPoint's director of investor and corporate communications.

The managed-care company's agency of record for the past three years, Powell Tate, was responsible for selecting an appropriate partner for the effort. Rim said, "We wanted to team up with an organization that is an authority on nutrition."

Powell Tate will also handle media relations and political lobbying efforts throughout

the campaign.

The idea for developing the guide originated from a 1999 report by the US Maternal Child Health Bureau, a unit of the US Department of Health and Human Services, that said a "communications shortfall" between physicians and families creates a barrier to addressing childhood obesity. The report recommended the use of "practical office aids" to help solve the problem.

Additionally, WellPoint conducted internal focus groups and surveys to get its employees' opinions on what issues they felt most important to address. Nutrition - along with first aid, emotional health, and the role of parents in schools - was identified most frequently.

"We wanted to make sure our employees had a sense of ownership in anything we pursued as a company," explained Rim.

WellPoint and the ADA are currently distributing hard copies of the guide to physicians. Electronic versions in English and in Spanish are available at www.wellpoint.com and at www.eatright.org.

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