Friday, April 18, 2014

One hockey game fulfills a life-long wish

For kids with serious diseases and their families, life often seems to revolve around hospital stays, medications, doctor visits, treatments and pain.  The challenges, restrictions and emotional toll of daily life with serious disease often pushes many of the joyful things in life off to the side, from playing basketball with friends after school to family vacations.

The nonprofit organization Make-A-Wish works hard to help sick kids and their families forget about the disease for a little while to experience their dreams. The compassion that Make-A-Wish shows for these children and their families led UnitedHealthcare to partner with Make-A-Wish back in 2007.  Since then, we’ve helped make the wishes come true of more than 600 children.  In addition to funding wishes, our employees regularly volunteer their time to help make the wishes happen.

Recently, we had the chance to help fulfill the wish of a young teen in the Pittsburgh area suffering from a rare type of bladder cancer. Riley’s wish was to attend a hockey game in which the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Philadelphia Flyers. 

UnitedHealthcare planned a party for Riley on Friday, April 11 to celebrate both his wish fulfillment and his 14th birthday.  Riley, his family and two best friends were picked up by a limo and whisked off to our offices in Forest Hills near Pittsburgh where 80 UnitedHealthcare workers were waiting to yell, “Surprise!”  Riley received an authentic Pens jersey with the name of his favorite player on the back, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, a DVD of his favorite show, Duck Dynasty, and other gifts while we all enjoyed ice cream cake.

On Saturday, Riley and his friends and family attended the Penguins vs. Flyers game, and enjoyed dinner and an overnight stay in downtown Pittsburgh.

At UnitedHealthcare, we know that access to high-quality medical care is the number one priority for kids like Riley, and we work hard every day to help people get the care they need.  But our mission to help people live healthier lives extends beyond access to quality, affordable healthcare.  We believe that a few smiles along the way can help kids like Riley find the emotional strength they need along their journey.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kids help create joke book to raise funds for children with health needs

Why did the clown go to the doctor? 

He was feeling kinda funny.

This is no April Fool’s joke — kids are helping kids feel better.

With the help of kids from around the nation, the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) collected more than 600 popular and original jokes, funny one-liners, knock-knock jokes and silly tongue-twisters for a new joke book designed to be an uplifting, boredom-busting page turner that would inspire any reader, whether in a hospital, doctor’s waiting room or long car ride.

The "Little Book – Big Laughs Joke Book,” will be available April 1 at for $5.99 and in addition to creating smiles, proceeds from the book will be used to help fund child medical grants for local families in need. 

Since 1999, the Foundation has funded more than 6,500 child medical grants totaling more than $20 million. Last year, six grants were awarded to families in Pennsylvania while more than 1,700 grants, worth more than $5.6 million, were awarded nationwide for treatments associated with medical conditions such as cancer, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, hearing loss, autism, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, ADHD and cerebral palsy.  Unfortunately, many families in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. are unaware of this great resource which is another reason why the Foundation came up with the idea for the book.  Our goal this year is to award 2,100 grants nationwide and the proceeds from the sale of this book can help us reach our goal.

To be eligible for a grant, children must be 16 years of age or younger. Families must meet economic guidelines, reside in the United States and have a commercial health insurance plan (does not have to be with UnitedHealthcare). Grants are available for medical expenses families have incurred 60 days prior to the date of application as well as for ongoing and future medical needs. Parents or legal guardians may apply for grants at Applications are accepted throughout the year, with no deadline to apply.

 The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity which is governed by an independent National Board of Directors. It is not a division or department of UnitedHealthcare or UnitedHealth Group, but enjoys their strong support.

UnitedHealthcare wants to help as many families as possible.  Families with multiple qualifying children can apply for multiple grants.  The limit for each child is $5,000 within a 12-month period and $10,000 within the child’s lifetime.  Applications take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.  The length of the review process varies, but usually takes between one and three months.  UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is now accepting applications at

Knock, knock…who’s there? 
I am. 
I am who?
You don’t know who you are?

Laughter truly is the best medicine!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Pay it forward

Many of my readers may be familiar with the concept of “paying it forward,” a term popularized by Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book Pay It Forward.  The idea is to do something to help someone, and instead of them paying back the favor, they pay it forward by helping someone else in need.

The action might be small, such as paying for a tank of gas for someone at the gas station who may need it, or it may be large, such as helping someone buy a plane ticket to get home to their family.  The point is that people will help others as they have been helped, thereby starting a chain of good will.

The concept has been on my mind often lately in light of a recent award I received and the good will that I myself was the recipient of as a student at Randolph Macon College.

On March 14, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce honored me with their 2014 Paradigm Award.  Now in its 22nd year, the annual award honors a local business woman whose leadership and dedication to family, career and the community makes her a strong role model for others. 

While the award is certainly a flattering accolade, the award focuses on the importance of being a strong role model for others, serving to help, support and inspire them just as other people have done for me along the way.  In other words, I need to pay it forward!

At UnitedHealthcare, paying it forward is a part of our culture.  Last year, in Pennsylvania we gave more than $350,000 to organizations such as Bridge Educational Foundation, the YMCA, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, March of Dimes, Team Pennsylvania and others that help build stronger, healthier communities.  Our Pennsylvania employees donated more than 2,000 volunteer hours to help nonprofit organizations.  And as part of our employee giving campaign, pledged more than $325,000, which UnitedHealthcare matched dollar for dollar.

So it’s time for me to pay it forward, too.  I’ve designated the $25,000 charitable gift that accompanies the Paradigm Award to support Leadership Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization which helps connect businesses and professionals with opportunities to serve the community.  Leadership Philadelphia is using a portion of the donation for its “Pay It Forward” campaign and is giving a random group of people who attended the Paradigm Awards luncheon a small amount of cash to complete acts of service and compassion for someone in need without the expectation of personal reward.

As they use the cash to selflessly help others, they are encouraged to share their experiences with Leadership Philadelphia.  I can’t wait to hear their stories, and I hope they will inspire my readers just as they inspire me.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Healthy babies are worth the wait

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the March of Dimes, UnitedHealthcare is a proud partner of the campaign to educate the public about the importance of the last few weeks of pregnancy titled, “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait.”  While some women may need to have their babies early for medical reasons, physicians and families schedule far too many births before the full gestation period of 40 weeks for non-medical reasons. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) classifies a baby as “full term” at 37 weeks, but advises against elective deliveries before 39 weeks.  A UnitedHealthcare study, which surveyed 650 insured, first-time mothers from various geographic, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, found that more than 90% of respondents thought that it was safe to deliver a baby before 39 weeks.

But those last weeks of pregnancy count.  In the last few weeks, babies are still developing important body functions, and babies born before 39 weeks are at increased risk of complications such as respiratory distress, jaundice, infection, low blood sugar, extra days in the hospital and even death.

The March of Dimes wants babies to get at least 39 weeks of gestation. For pregnant women, the March of Dimes offers information on why it is important for labor to begin on its own and not to schedule delivery by convenience.  It also encourages health care professionals to participate in quality improvement initiatives aimed at eliminating early elective deliveries.

“Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” is an important component of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, a nationwide effort to address the growing problem of premature birth, the leading cause of newborn death and a major cause of serious health problems. Premature births cost society billions of dollars every year. 

As an expansion of the “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Campaign, the March of Dimes has created the “CineMama” iPhone app.  Women can create a time-lapse video of their pregnancy – and get health tips along the way – through this free interactive app.    Time-lapse pregnancy slideshows and videos are a trend among expectant parents as a way of creating a digital keepsake of their pregnancy to share with loved ones. 

“CineMama” allows expecting moms to take and upload their photos to the web, easily turn the still pictures into video, and share it all through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.  “CineMama” will prompt women to record the ups and downs of their pregnancy, as well as important milestones in a diary that can be easily shared.

You can find more information at weeks here or by calling 610-945-6050. You should also check with your insurance company. UnitedHealthcare has a Healthy Pregnancy program that connects our members who are expectant mothers with the care and education they need. The program is at no additional cost to the member and provides 24-hour* toll-free access to experienced maternity nurses and other resources.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day of service trumps day-off

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, anyone can serve and everyone should serve.  So when thousands of volunteers, including twenty-two UnitedHealthcare employees, family and friends showed up to participate in the 19th annual Martin Luther King Day of Service hosted by Girard College in Philadelphia, I was extremely pleased. 

Many activities for this year’s Day of Service were designed to pay tribute to the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that barred racial segregation in public schools.  So it seemed appropriated that UnitedHealthcare’s service activity took place at the Martha Washington elementary school in west Philadelphia where the UHC team took on the task changing the color of the schools lunchroom from a drab light blue to a vibrant yellow. 

For the last several years, the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service has been the largest event in the country celebrating Dr. King by doing good works. UnitedHealthcare has been a part of the day’s activities for the past ten years. In fact, this year, we helped with a total of 1,700 King Day projects throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. 

UnitedHealthcare’s mission to help people live healthier lives can be seen in all aspects of our organization.  But I am especially proud of our employees who turned their day-off into a day of service.

Thank you UnitedHealthcare team! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Getting to Know You

At UnitedHealthcare, we spend a good deal of time listening to and connecting with our customers because we want to deliver integrated product offerings when, where and how our customers want to be reached.  So it makes perfect sense to us (although I get many confused looks when I tell others) that we should kick off the year at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas this week.

In addition to showcasing myEasyBook, an online healthcare shopping service, UnitedHealthcare representatives at the electronics show are demonstrating how our health benefits, services and technologies help to simplify the consumer health care experience by making helpful, practical information more accessible and affordable through personal technology devices such as smart phones, video game consoles and television programming.

CES attendees who visit the UnitedHealthcare booth can interact with a wide range of innovative health tools, including:

Virtual Diabetes Prevention Program: The NOT ME Virtual Diabetes Prevention Program (VDPP) is the online version of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), an evidence-based group lifestyle change program that helps people at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes prevent or delay the disease through modest weight loss via healthy eating, increased physical activity and other lifestyle changes. The VDPP was recently named an International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree in the “Technology for a Better World” category.

DanceDanceRevolution Classroom Edition: A collaboration with Konami is bringing DanceDanceRevolution (DDR) Classroom Edition, to another school. Konami is the wildly popular dance game that has shown to encourage physical activity among adults and children. The participating school will use the game to track its impact on students’ health, well-being and exercise habits. The collaboration last year brought DDR Classroom Edition to schools in Longwood, Fla.; Gainesville, Ga.; and Fresno, Texas.

Renew (formerly NOVU): Renew inspires and rewards UnitedHealthcare plan participants for taking care of their health and wellness by giving them points toward healthy products, raffles and local deals.

WellView: WellView automatically aggregates disparate data including electronic medical records from physicians, personal health records, health care expenses, health plan balances and more, all in one place. WellView also offers helpful tools such as online appointment scheduling, provider search and a symptom checker to help improve the experience for consumers and get them to the right resource sooner.

UnitedHealthcare’s technology and innovative collaborations showcased at CES make it easier and more fun for people to become active participants in managing their health.  And it’s a pretty good way for consumers to get to know more about us.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pennsylvania is 29th healthiest state

We often hear bad news about health: rising rates of obesity, rising rates of diabetes, rising rates of heart disease, and much more.

But what about the good news?  Are any of the current health initiatives that aim to improve the health of Americans working?  Are there any areas of health that need more attention? Let's take a look.

This week, the United Health Foundation in conjunction with the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention published their 2013 health report, titled America’s Health Rankings®: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities.

This year’s study found that the nation as a whole is making considerable progress in their overall health. The most notable gains came in key behavioral measures, including smoking, physical activity and obesity.  Overall, Hawaii is the healthiest state, while Mississippi ranked 50th.

As it has for the past two decades, Pennsylvania came in just below the average among all states, ranking 29th this year with several strengths and challenges.

Pennsylvania’s Strengths
  • Pennsylvania has a high rate of high school graduation with 84.1 percent of incoming ninth graders graduating from high school.  Higher levels of education are associated with better health. For example, 55 percent of adult Pennsylvanians aged 55 years and older with at least a high school education report that their health is very good or excellent compared to only 27.5 percent with less than a high school education.
  • In the past year, physical inactivity decreased from 26.2 percent to 23.4 percent of adults, although 2.3 million Pennsylvanians are still inactive.
  • Immunization coverage among adolescents increased in the past year from 68.6 percent to 74.1 percent of persons aged 13 to 17 years.  Pennsylvania’s immunization rate of adolescents is among the highest in the nation, ranking third among the states.
  • The number of smokers decreased nearly 5 percent in the past year.  More than 21.4 percent of adults in Pennsylvania are still smokers, however.
Pennsylvania’s Challenges
  • While the average obesity rate nationwide held steady at 27.6 percent in the last year, obesity in Pennsylvania increased from 28.6 percent to 29.1 percent of adults in one year.
  • Pennsylvania has one of the highest levels of pollution of any state and is ranked 47th for air quality.
  • More than 15 out of every 100,000 Pennsylvanians die from drug-related causes, the 38th worst rate of drug deaths in the nation.
This report is important to Pennsylvania in that it shows how the state and the people who work in health care within the state are working collaboratively to help people across the Commonwealth live healthier lives.

To see the Rankings in full, please visit: