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How Blue Shield takes lifestyle medicine to the next level

BY ANGIE KALOUSEK — This month, the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax of 2016 took effect. California voters approved Proposition 56 last fall, increasing the state’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, and taking an important step toward improving the health of all Californians. Blue Shield was a strong supporter of the measure and continues to be an advocate for a smoke-free California as Prop 56 takes effect.

A 2014 report issued by the Surgeon General, noted that raising prices on cigarettes is “one of the most effective tobacco control interventions.” The report went on to state that “the evidence is sufficient to conclude that increases in the prices of tobacco products, including those resulting from excise tax increases, prevent initiation of tobacco use, promote cessation and reduce the prevalence and intensity of tobacco use among youth and adults."[1] For those who smoke a pack of cigarettes per day, that means $700 in additional costs per year.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 70 percent of smokers want to quit smoking, but only 5 percent are successful, often trying to quit on their own. QuitNet, Blue Shield’s smoking cessation program, is an internationally-recognized, clinically-validated tobacco cessation intervention available to all members at no cost.

QuitNet, available online or as a smartphone app, provides access to trained digital quit coaches, the California Smokers Helpline, complimentary nicotine replacement therapy, and the world’s largest global support community representing more than 1 million “quitters.”  To our knowledge, no health plan is currently offering such a comprehensive, proven solution with the goal of helping Californians kick the habit once and for all.

In a continued effort to offer engaging, effective lifestyle medicine benefits to our members, Blue Shield recently added a new benefit for our Trio ACO HMO members. Blue Shield now offers Trio subscribers a Fitbit, free of charge, with Wellvolution’s Walkadoo physical activity program.

Walkadoo delivers daily, personalized step goals via text or email and is accessible via the web or smartphone app.  In a recent randomized control trial, Walkadoo members increased their physical activity by a statistically significant 20 percent or 1,000 steps per day when compared to control participants over a six week period.

Helping people achieve healthy lifestyle habits may be a goal of health plans in general. With QuitNet and the suite of programs available through Wellvolution, Blue Shield is looking to lead the field in making this goal a reality.

Angie Kalousek is senior manager of wellness market solutions at Blue Shield of California