The New York City-based Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, has announced the creation of the Alliance Healthcare Initiative, a collaborative effort with national medical associations, leading insurers, and employers to provide comprehensive health benefits to children and families for the prevention, assessment, and treatment of childhood obesity.
According to the foundation, the effort represents the first time that insurance companies and corporations have collaborated in a holistic approach to address the childhood obesity epidemic. Collaborators include Aetna, Blue Cross of North Carolina, Blue Cross of Massachusetts, WellPoint, PepsiCo, Owens Corning, and Paychex. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dietetic Association will work with those organizations to help clinicians provide education, improve care coordination, offer resources to eligible families, and help recruit additional medical professionals.
As part of the initiative, healthcare providers will include visits to primary care physicians and registered dietitians in children's health insurance benefits. Doctors will be reimbursed for bringing children back for follow-up visits and working with them to adopt healthy behaviors, while registered dietitians will be reimbursed for providing in-depth nutrition counseling over multiple visits to children who are referred by their doctors. Participating companies will have access to educational materials and resources developed by the alliance for parents. During the first year of the program, nearly one million overweight children will gain access to this benefit. The program is expected to provide access for more than six million children within the first three years.
"Nearly one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese — we are confronting a public health crisis," said former president Bill Clinton, who co-leads the alliance with California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and AHA president Tim Gardner. "If we teach people at an early age that eating healthy and moving more is important, an entire generation of Americans will live healthier and longer lives."