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Obesity and diabetes are on the rise

New data from the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the number of people living with diabetes has more than quadrupled since 1980. That means 400 million people worldwide are now coping with this chronic disease at an estimated cost of more than $820 billion annually.  Furthermore, WHO links the rise in diabetes to the rise in obesity (source:  In short, our lifestyles are killing us.

We spend a lot of time in our society waiting and hoping for a “cure.” With numbers this big and challenges that are truly global, how can we not?  Still, what years in health care have taught me is that there are seldom easy solutions to major health challenges. That does not mean we should give up.

It’s not very flashy, but the fact remains that the best way to sustainably improve health – on both a personal and societal basis – is to make small changes that add up over time.

“Can’t I just buy that automatic ab-cruncher belt instead?” you might ask.

I wish! But that’s part of the problem, too. Our quick-fix, “lose 10 pounds in 10 days” mindset distracts us and often causes us to overlook the many quiet contributions that are making incremental improvements in health.

Anthem-Milwaukee-Triple-PlayOne effort that’s making a difference both here in Wisconsin and across the country is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Triple Play program.  Triple Play is a comprehensive health and wellness curriculum that teaches kids the body, mind and soul aspects of good health.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than one-third of all U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese and attributes this change to genetic, behavioral and environmental factors (source: CDC). Triple Play works to address these challenges head-on by giving kids a safe and supportive environment that facilitates improved decision-making.

A study of more than 2,000 children ages 9-14 who attend Boys & Girls Clubs showed that Triple Play succeeded in getting them to exercise more and eat healthier foods. Kids who participated in Triple Play increased to 90 percent of the federally recommended amount of daily exercise, which is 60 minutes a day for children, while their peers outside the program decreased to 78 percent. This video shows Triple Play in action.

To keep this great work going, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s corporate foundation has committed $10 million to expand and support Triple Play at Boys & Girls Clubs across the country. Through this five-year investment, nearly 8 million kids will be exposed to the skills and habits they need to live longer, healthier lives.

Triple Play is not the only program of its kind, and you likely need not look much further than your local community center to find health and wellness programming.  These are efforts businesses should not overlook because all companies bear the side-effects of poor health, including decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and rising health care costs.

Companies are already spending significant budget dollars on workplace wellness programs — often with varying levels of results.  If your company is among those, why not reinforce your wellness messages by adding health improvement into your corporate social responsibility efforts?

Getting started is likely easier than you think. Almost every local non-profit welcomes extra hands and corporate contributions.  Give them a call to see if you can find an area of overlapping interest and then get your employees involved. What better way to help your community and help yourself? It’s a win-win.

True, no one person or company is going to solve the global challenge of diabetes or obesity.  This doesn’t mean it’s “game over,” but it does mean we need more people to get in the game if we are going to win in the end. Are you in?

To get started making healthy changes in your home, check out Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Triple Play Parents Game Plan (also available in Spanish).

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Paul Nobile President
Nobile is a 20-year veteran of the insurance industry whose experience includes time with Rush Prudential Health Plans, Aetna, and United Healthcare. Prior to joining Anthem, Nobile served as the Director of Sales and Account Management for the Midwest region at UniCare, a health benefits company based in Chicago and owned by Anthem’s parent company and also ran UniCare’s Eastern Region with offices.

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