Insurers take on obesity prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults and around 17% of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. It’s well known preventing obesity can ultimately save the healthcare system millions of dollars, but is there any financial payback for insurers? Dr. David Ludwig, director of the new Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital, Boston, thinks not. He told Kaiser Health News that there’s no real incentive for payers to cover better obesity prevention and treatment because the costs are immediate and the benefits are long-term. According to Ludwig “it doesn’t make a lot of sense for individual plans when families change policies every three to five years.”

Even so, under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are now required to cover screening and counseling for obesity. And many are going above and beyond with both local and national obesity prevention efforts. So what, exactly have the major insurers been doing? Here’s a rundown of just a few of their programs.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield

  • Pediatric Obesity and Diabetes Prevention Kit: an online resource that contains childhood obesity prevention tools to help providers manage pediatric patients during office visits. The kit includes physician guidelines, BMI charts, a brochure about the implications of childhood obesity, posters and take-home materials for patients and parents.
  • Power1K Kids After School Program: a 24-week comprehensive health and fitness program to teach kids and their parents healthy habits and behaviors.
  • Girls on the Run: a program that uses interactive games and training for a 5K running event as tools to teach physical fitness.

United HealthCare

  • Diabetes and Childhood Obesity Program: an online resource that contains tips for preventing and managing diabetes, advice to help address childhood obesity and resources to help support overall health and wellness.
  • Join for Me: a year-long family program, which in partnership with the local YMCA, helps kids achieve a healthier weight.
  • Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget: a bilingual, multimedia educational outreach program that was developed in partnership with Sesame Street. The program is aimed at helping low-income families make food choices that are affordable and nutritional and that set the foundation for lifelong healthy habits.


  • C.H.O.I.C.E.S. for Girls Obesity Prevention Program: a three-month free program that is run by the Center Helping Obesity In Children End Successfully (C.H.O.I.C.E.S.). The program features fitness classes, nutrition education, cooking demonstrations, field trips and special guest mentors.
  • GoLocal: Cultivating Healthy Communities: a grant program that strives to increase access to healthy foods and improve opportunities for physical activity in underserved communities.
  • SALSA!: a program run by the School of Continuing Education and Professional Development at the Hialeah Campus of Miami Dade College. Sí a la Salud Ahora (SALSA!) promotes nutrition education and physical activity at childcare centers in the city of Hialeah.
Filed Under: Payer
Top image credit: Flickr, Alan Cleaver