Temple Times Online Edition
    SEPTEMBER 30, 2004
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Simple health changes pay off

The workday comes to an end, and you run out of the office to beat the traffic. As you head out of Philadelphia on I-95, tired and hungry after a long, stressful day, billboards entice you with ads for mouth-watering sweets and thirst-quenching beverages: cinnamon buns. Hoagies. Pepsi. Snapple. All of them invite you to indulge — just a little.

At home, too tired to cook dinner and too short on time to exercise, it’s takeout time again.

Collectively, we live full lives with long work hours and many family obligations. It’s the American way. Unfortunately, our lifestyle is increasing our healthcare costs.

Your lifestyle is made up of the little decisions you make every day — what you eat, how often you exercise, how much rest you get, whether you wear your seat belt, whether you smoke, how much you drink. Each of these decisions affects your health, and your health — and that of each of your family members — is what drives healthcare costs.

One study showed that 10 health risks were behind 25 percent of total healthcare expenditures. Exercise habits, alcohol and tobacco use, nutrition, weight, cholesterol, stress levels, depression, blood sugar and blood pressure all affected healthcare costs.

What’s interesting is that each of the risks could be improved with changes in behavior and lifestyle, and sometimes with medication.

You don’t need to be an Olympic gold medalist to have a healthy lifestyle. Small changes can have an impact. Take the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator. Get off one stop early when riding public transportation. Walk a few nights a week after dinner. Cut down or stop smoking. Eat a few more vegetables and fruits.

Each of one of these actions can improve health and lower costs. Let’s look at exercise and weight, for example. A study from the University of Michigan showed that modest levels of exercise among sedentary, overweight employees lowered their healthcare costs by an average of $500 per employee per year.

Temple’s medical insurance premiums for employees and their families are expected to top $50 million this year. If we each make a modest improvement in our activity level and diet, we have the potential to significantly reduce costs to both employees and the University.

It’s not all about costs. You feel better when you have fewer healthcare problems, your quality of life improves, and you can enjoy life more.

Health is at the starting block for healthcare costs. If you can boost your quality of life and lower your costs, how can you lose?
Online health resources
Take two steps toward a healthier lifestyle today by using interactive online tools at the Independence Blue Cross Web site.

Body Mass Index calculator
Are you at a healthy weight? Find out by using the Body Mass Index calculator. The BMI is a scientific measure of body fat based on your height and weight, and it applies to both men and women. It’s easy to use — just enter your height and weight — and be honest! You’ll find out whether you’re at risk for weight-related health problems. You can find the BMI calculator at www.ibx.com/htdocs/wellness/reimbursements/weight/we_health_bmi.html.

Personal Health Profile
Find out the status of your health by completing the Personal Health Profile at www.ibx.com/jsps/article.jsp?id=/wellness/health_assessment/index.html.
Identify opportunities to improve your overall health in a fun, informative way with a personal health profile. When you complete the IBX lifestyle questionnaire, you’ll receive a customized health report that identifies your possible health risks.
This report will include recommendations on how you can address identified health risks through lifestyle changes and how the IBX Wellness Programs can help you achieve your goals.
You can take a comprehensive health profile in about 10 minutes, or you can address specific areas of interest in a much shorter time. Topics include nutrition assessment, checkups, cardiovascular health, stress and well-being, general health habits and setting goals for better health.
If you have any questions about the Personal Health Profile, call the Health Resource Center at 1-800-ASK-BLUE (in Philadelphia call 215-241-3367).