Best Partnership Award Finalist WellPoint Improves Individual Lives and Community Health

October 26, 2012

Recently I interviewed Lance Chrisman, executive director of WellPoint Foundation (pictured below) about WellPoint's health and wellness initiative called Healthy Generations.

BCLC: What is Healthy Generations and how does it align with the WellPoint Foundation mission statement?

Lance Chrisman: WellPoint and the WellPoint Foundation are committed to improving the lives of the people we serve and the health of our communities.

Through our State Health Index – a collection of public health data – and the Healthy Generations grant program, the WellPoint Foundation works to identify the issues most in need of attention and then directs our financial support and volunteer efforts toward improving health in those areas. 

Did You Know?

Youth obesity is one of the issues addressed by the Healthy Generations program. WellPoint is a 2012 Best Partnership Award finalist, along with Boys & Girls Club of America, for its work to change the course of the youth obesity epidemic. 

 

We believe that by focusing our efforts on specific health issues, we can best bring the talent, experience, and resources of our company to bear on improving health across the country. Healthy Generations is the name we’ve given this health-focused approach that gives depth and meaning to our giving.

BCLC: What are some of the issues Healthy Generations supports and why?

Lance Chrisman: In everything we do, we are looking to make a meaningful and measurable impact. We truly want to improve people’s lives, and we know that health plays a major role in a person’s overall quality of life. That’s why we are so passionate about what we do.

There are no shortage of causes and issues that need philanthropic support. We’ve chosen health because WellPoint is a health company and it makes sense that we do what we are good at – improving health. 

The specific causes supported by our Healthy Generations grant program include: childhood obesity; prenatal and maternal measures; immunizations; smoking cessation; and disease states, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Increasingly, we are focusing our efforts on addressing the health risks caused by declining rates of physical activity and increasing rates of obesity and chronic disease. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the rates of obesity in children and teens have nearly tripled since 1980 and about one-third of adults are now considered obese. 

The Partnership

WellPoint formed a partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America to expand the nonprofit organization’s “Triple Play” program, a wellness initiative to show youth how eating right, keeping fit, and forming positive relationships add up to healthy lifestyles. WellPoint supports Triple Play through a $5 million multi-year grant, employee volunteerism, and leadership and healthcare expertise that benefits the program’s development.

 

Through grant projects and sponsorships, the WellPoint Foundation and WellPoint’s affiliated health plans are working with doctors, hospitals, and community organizations to help kids and families learn about active lifestyles and good nutrition. The goal is to help both generations improve their health and avoid lifelong health challenges, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. 

BCLC: What has Healthy Generations accomplished?

Lance Chrisman: Since the WellPoint Foundation was established in 2000, we’ve donated more than $130 million to organizations that share our commitment to improving the health and well-being of the individuals and communities we serve. To provide more detail to that figure, in the last year alone, WellPoint, its associates, and the WellPoint Foundation combined to contribute more than $19.8 million and 15,336 volunteer hours to health-related causes and community events across the U.S.

In that same year, we also kicked off national grants with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and OASIS Institute to promote youth health; March of Dimes to provide prenatal resources and care; and the American Cancer Society to support its Patient Navigator program, which provides services to newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families. 

Finally, in further support of our mission, this summer we kicked off a three-year, $4.5 million national grant  with the American Heart Association to support a mobile training tour and educational campaign that is working to teach thousands of Americans the lifesaving Hands-Only CPR technique.

These organizations and programs are already producing great results.

  • More than 50% of participants in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Triple Play wellness program demonstrated an increased knowledge of health after participating in the program during 2011; nearly 10% reported improved healthy eating habits; and 36% reported an increased frequency of physical activity.
  • The OASIS Institute’s CATCH Healthy Habits program pairs youth with adult volunteers to teach children about healthy lifestyles. Participants in this program – both the kids and adults – have increased their vegetable consumption and say they are more likely to read nutrition labels.
  • With the March of Dimes, we’ve been able to drive decreases in preterm births through the Centering Pregnancy program. Our $1 million grant helped 3,436 women receive prenatal care in their first trimester, exceeding the grant’s target goal of 2,900. Of the 2,192 births reported through the first quarter of 2012, only 180 births – or 8.2% – were pre-term, compared with the 12.7% aggregate preterm birth rate across the 13 states in which our grant operated.
  • Finally, the American Heart Association’s Hands-Only CPR mobile training tour and awareness campaign is off to a fast start. Since June 2012, more than 6,300 people have been trained at the mobile tour stops and the how-to training video has been watched more than 344,000 times online.

Your Vote Counts!

WellPpoint and Boys & Girls Clubs of America are competing for the title of 2012 Best Partnership Award winner. Meet all of the finalists, read their stories, and cast your vote here, by 11/2.

 

BCLC: When you chose to support an organization through Healthy Generations what traits do you look for?

Lance Chrisman: First, we make sure that the organization shares our commitment to the community and our passion for improving the health and wellbeing of current and future generations.Then, we look at the programs and projects the organization is looking to have funded. 

We really try to keep our focus on funding programs rather than headcounts and administrative functions because we feel that’s where you get the biggest return on investment. Again, our focus is on improving health and supporting proven, results-oriented programs is a way to do that.

In all that we do, measurement is key and we do not prioritize grant “activity” over obtaining measurable end results. For example, a physical fitness initiative that proposes to make open-ended increases in physical activity or changes in diet as its key goals is less likely to be favored than an initiative that outlines specific metrics, such as increasing physical activity levels or improving diets as a means to measurably reduce Body Mass Index for a target population.

BCLC: Where do you see Healthy Generations in the next five years?

Lance Chrisman: Healthy Generations is an outstanding platform for us. Although it’s focused, it’s also dynamic. As we see patterns emerge and health challenges change, we will evolve Healthy Generations to respond to those needs. That said, the issues we are focused on, such as childhood obesity, are not quick fixes. In fact, they will likely take generations to fully address. My hope is that five years from now we can look back and see that we’ve started to make inroads on these major health issues, and will then have an even better idea of what kinds of interventions work best because we are continually benchmarking and measuring the outcomes our grants.

More on WellPoint's work on youth obesity