Archive for October, 2005

Parental Responsibility: A Recipe for Addressing Childhood Obesity

October 28th, 2005 by Melanie Matthews

Childhood obesity – it’s in the newspapers, on the radio, on TV and yet parents still are not driving home the need and the ingredients for proper nutrition with their children.

My five-year-old daughter is playing soccer this fall. At a recent game, the self-appointed team mom brought the kids some half-time treats – juice boxes, cupcakes and single serving bags of cookies. While her intentions were good – providing something special for the kids – she actually did the kids a disservice.
The kids didn’t play a decent second half because of this “treat” – not that the game is very competitive at this beehive stage, but they were loaded down with carbs and sugar.

Thankfully, the coach found a tactful way to tell the mother that while her efforts were appreciated, water and orange slices might be a better alternative than sweets during a soccer game.

While chaperoning my daughter’s class trip a few days later, I was amazed at the lunches that the parents packed for their children. One little boy in the class had a lunch that consisted of a single serving package of potato chips, a bag of carton character cookies, a snack bag of sugar cereal and a candy bar – I guess for dessert. Several of these kindergarten kids had cans of soda with their lunches.

On another recent occasion, I stopped for a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop. I stood in line behind a family of four. The two children in this family – in the seven to nine age range — were ordering frozen coffee drinks.

While these three incidents should not have amazed me given the statistics on childhood obesity, they still did. In HIN’s report, Childhood Obesity: Truths, Trends & Program Design, we provide an overview of how far reaching this epidemic is — more than 9 million overweight American children and adolescents—triple the number identified in 1980. This report also looks at the type of programs that healthcare organizations are launching to address childhood obesity.

My lesson learned – despite the fact that schools, communities, health plans and provider organizations are launching programs to address childhood obesity, nothing will address this epidemic as much as educational programs aimed at parents.

The impact of educational programs aimed at parents could even have a two-pronged effect – better nutritional habits for both parents and for kids, which might go a long way in reducing the rate of obesity and its comorbidities across the whole population.

Winning Toolkits

October 19th, 2005 by Melanie Matthews

Congratulations to the winners of our first annual Healthcare Toolkits contest. We are so impressed by the breadth of content and creativity exhibited in the nearly 60 toolkits we received that we’ve decided to make this contest an annual event. We applaud all of these efforts and thank our independent panel of judges for their painstaking evaluations.

Toolkits is an industry buzzword referring to just about any concerted effort to inform a target group about a subject of interest to them—via print, CD-ROM, the Internet or any combination thereof. Being in the business of communicating ourselves, we wanted to see this concept in action, especially with the industry call to arm consumers with enough information to intelligently craft their own healthcare coverage and care. Hence, the contest.

The winning toolkits identified by our judges go beyond information by attempting to alleviate the fear and confusion inherent in three difficult scenarios: coping with a breast cancer diagnosis, recognizing and reporting domestic violence, and returning to daily life following an inpatient stay at a psychiatric facility.

During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re happy to coincidentally but fittingly award first prize to The Eden Communications Group of Maplewood, N.J. for the MyHealth, MyJourneyâ„¢ patient navigation kit, which walks breast cancer patients through their diagnosis and care. By giving these patients motivational and physical tools to plan and document their treatment, this toolkit empowers the patient to take charge of their own care. The artwork that accents the kit comes from breast cancer survivors, providing a visual reminder of hope, support and solidarity. Bravo to Eden, which developed this toolkit for Pfizer Oncology.

Second place went to PacifiCare® Behavioral Health for the Treatment Plan Toolkit it developed for persons hospitalized for mental health disorders. This toolkit’s goal is to ensure continuity of care after an inpatient stay in a psychiatric facility. The kit educates patients about their care plans, communicating with their physicians and developing a support network among other resources.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan won third prize for its toolkit sensitizing providers to the problem of domestic violence. This packet of resources and patient handouts helps healthcare professionals screen for, identify and document confirmed or suspected cases of domestic abuse. There are even displays for waiting rooms.

Have a look at our winning entries and judging panel, and send us an email at if you’d like to be notified about the 2006 Healthcare Toolkits contest.

Customer Service in Healthcare – Yes It Can Exist!

October 14th, 2005 by Melanie Matthews

Like most people in the United States, it’s not often that I’m struck by the customer service given in the healthcare industry. But this week I have to admit I was.

My almost three-year-old son had his first visit to the dentist office and two days later, he received a letter in the mail welcoming him to their practice. It was a friendly, conversational, personalized letter that left me with a very positive view of this practice – I am sold on this practice!

This simple letter probably took only about three to four minutes to write, sign and mail, but will, I believe, have a greater impact than they even know. I have told at least the proverbial 10 people — this time on the good side — about this letter since receiving it – and I only got it yesterday. I’m even writing about it here!

There are so many times that the customer touch points in the healthcare system fall short of anything related to customer service – and yes, patients and members are customers. I challenge all healthcare provider and payor organizations to take a look at their touch points and see what small changes you can make that might have such a big impact.