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How We Live Better At Blue Shield (and You Can Too)

Last weekend I was chatting with my son about Blue Shield, and how enthusiastic I am about our work here, striving for care that’s worthy of our family and friends, and sustainable affordable. We moved to the importance of addressing all the determinants of health, including access to nutritious food, shelter, and engaging in healthy lifestyles and behaviors, at which point he asked me, “What about you?”  

Great question, Danny. You see, life gets busy. Work demands are high, and all of a sudden, those commitments I made to myself, to continuously engage in a workout regimen, to eat healthy and moderate my portions, to lose weight, to sleep well, all seemed to have been subsumed to being busy. I shared that in the last week, I recommitted myself, to not crowd out taking care of myself, and how much better I felt, and how much more productive I was at work.

My experience could be your experience, too. You don’t need to have my medical training to get information you need to set yourself on pathway to better health. We can all assess our lifestyles to prevent illness. Here’s why:

Many of the leading health conditions facing Californians can be related to our lifestyles, such as:

  • hypertension (#1 in California)
  • high cholesterol (#3)
  • type 2 diabetes (#4)
  • coronary artery disease (#5)
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (#9)

Research shows these types of conditions can be prevented, treated and even reversed when people access what we call lifestyle medicine.


Lifestyle medicine provides a structured, clinician-guided approach to healthy lifestyle changes to prevent, treat and even reverse lifestyle-related chronic disease. These programs can include a healthy diet; regular physical activity; adequate sleep; stress management; tobacco cessation; and other non-drug interventions.

It is often the safest, least invasive and most cost-effective way to address these chronic conditions, and it empowers people to take control of their own well-being. It’s my goal to have it work for me, just as it has for countless others who choose this preventative approach.

At Blue Shield, the 2018 Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index helps us understand which lifestyle conditions have the greatest impact on our members, allowing us the opportunity to thoughtfully design programs and services to help them live healthier, fuller lives.

Our programs are achieving remarkable results. In 2017, we launched our Diabetes Prevention Program, offering both digital and in-person options to support our members’ health goals. It is just one of the lifestyle medicine programs we currently offer our members through WellvolutionTM, our comprehensive suite of clinically validated diet and lifestyle programs. Other Wellvolution programs include:

  • Ornish Reversal Program, a research-based, in-person program that focuses on intensive diet and lifestyle changes to help members reverse heart disease with minimal use of drugs or surgery.
  • Quitnet, a clinically validated program designed to help members stop using tobacco and reduce their risk of COPD using nicotine replacement therapy and highly trained quit coaches.
  • Walkadoo, which provides daily, personalized physical activity recommendations via app, text and email to help members maintain an active lifestyle and reduce their risks for conditions such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension. For our Trio ACO HMO members, it also includes a Fitbit activity tracker, free of charge.
  • Daily Challenge, which sends users daily wellness goals to help them remain focused on well-being, with digital tools to help reduce stress and address high blood pressure. Members can opt for a random health challenge each day or choose from dozens of unique well-being tracks targeting areas of health including physical, mental, emotional, financial, prenatal and more.

Blue Shield is taking a leadership role to help educate our network providers on these powerful lifestyle treatments. In collaboration with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, we’re offering certification courses and trainings for physicians and health coaches so more Californians can receive this remarkable kind of patient-centered care.

My hope is that we at Blue Shield can live what we hope to impart to our members; of course, that starts with me, and I’m here to say I’m committed to it. How about you?

Terry Gilliland is Blue Shield of California's senior vice president and chief health officer.