YMCA of the USA, UnitedHealth Group Collaboration Offers New Model for Chronic Disease Prevention

UnitedHealth Group to reimburse YMCAs for offering program proven to cut diabetes risk

CHICAGO, IL, April 14, 2010—YMCA of the USA, the nation’s leading non-profit service organization dedicated to healthy living, and UnitedHealth Group, a diversified health and well-being company, today announced a partnership to reduce the burden of diabetes in the United States.  In this first of its kind collaboration, UnitedHealth Group will reimburse YMCAs offering the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. 

Currently, about 24 million Americans are living with diabetes and another 57 million have pre-diabetes. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is designed especially for people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Delivered in a group setting, it has been proven to cut participants’ chances of developing the disease by more than half. 

This partnership marks the first time a health services company will reimburse a community-based organization for delivering a prevention program such as this.

“Improving the nation’s health and well-being is part of the YMCA’s charitable mission. Over the past several years we have worked to redefine the YMCA experience to better support those who struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA. “We are thrilled to work with UnitedHealth Group and be part of a new paradigm in healthcare that is focused on prevention. YMCAs are at work in nearly 10,000 communities nationwide, so we are uniquely positioned to take this program to such scale that it can have a real impact on the lives of people at risk for diabetes, as well as their families.”

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is based on the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which showed that with lifestyle changes and modest weight reduction, a person with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by 58 percent.

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine were able to replicate the successful results of the Diabetes Prevention Program in conjunction with the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis.  Unlike the NIH’s program, which was conducted with individuals one-on-one, the YMCA’s program is conducted in a group setting.

The research conducted by the Indiana University researchers also proved that the YMCA could effectively deliver a group program for about 75 percent less than the cost of the original Diabetes Prevention Program.  This research also highlighted the YMCA’s ability to deliver the program nationally.

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is being offered as part of UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance.   YMCAs will receive reimbursement for each participant who is referred through the Alliance, with performance-based metrics built in that provide for a higher reimbursement when the desired weight loss is achieved.
“Teaming up with YMCA of the USA and other partners to create the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance reinforces our commitment to helping stem the rising tide of diabetes and obesity that is already having devastating consequences for individuals, families and our country,” said Stephen Hemsley, president and CEO of UnitedHealth Group.  “By combining our national health care resources with the YMCA’s presence in local communities, we can expand access to this clinically proven program for a much larger group of people at risk for diabetes.” 

In addition to partnering with UnitedHealth Group, YMCA of the USA is also working with CDC and elected officials championing prevention in Congress to bring the program to more communities and develop a national program to recognize proven diabetes prevention programs like the YMCA’s.

“The YMCA’s work in diabetes prevention makes it a leader in developing local responses to critical health needs,” says Dr. Ann Albright, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “CDC’s national partnership with the YMCA shows that by joining together to turn research into real-world solutions, government, the nonprofit sector and business can improve America’s health and reduce the risk for diabetes. CDC is committed to preventing diabetes, and we look forward to working with YMCA of the USA and UnitedHealth in this important effort.”

YMCA of the USA’s work with UnitedHealth Group will begin with seven YMCAs – Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; and Phoenix, Ariz. – and will expand throughout 2010 and beyond. 
In these communities, the YMCA is committed to making the program available to everyone who meets program criteria, regardless of an individual’s insurance coverage.  In addition, as evidence of UnitedHealth Group’s commitment to solving the nation’s diabetes crisis, the company is making the program available to other insurance companies and employer groups that are not its health insurance customers.

The goals of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program are to help people with pre-diabetes achieve and maintain weight loss of at least 7 percent by eating healthy and increasing physical activity to 150 minutes per week. A trained lifestyle coach works with a group of participants for 16 core sessions to help them change their lifestyles. After these sessions, participants meet monthly for up to a year for added support in maintaining their progress.

"Lifestyle changes, like the ones promoted in this program, can help stop diabetes before it develops. And that in turn could help stop the disease's devastating complications such as blindness, amputation and heart disease," commented Richard Bergenstal, MD, President, Medicine & Science, American Diabetes Association. "Insurance coverage for these programs is a crucial step in getting more people to participate and achieve these results."

This announcement comes on the heels of the historic health care reform legislation, which included a bi-partisan bill by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., authorizing CDC to train and recognize community-based diabetes prevention programs like those being offered by the YMCA.

“We owe great thanks to champions such as Senators Franken and Lugar, as well as Senator Harkin, for their efforts to improve the health of all Americans by bringing an unprecedented focus on prevention to health care reform efforts,” Nicoll said. “This is truly a game changer for people at high risk for developing diabetes and for the way health care is delivered in this country.”

In addition to its commitment to the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, UnitedHealth Group is also pledging a $2.25 million, three-year grant to support YMCA of the USA’s healthy living efforts.

About YMCA of the USA

YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's 2,687 YMCAs, which serve 21 million people each year, including more than 9 million children under the age of 18. YMCAs respond to critical social needs by drawing on their collective strength as one of America's largest not-for-profit community service organizations. Through a variety of programs and services focused on the holistic development of children and youth, family strengthening, and health and well-being for all, YMCAs unite men, women and children of all ages, faiths, backgrounds, abilities and income levels. From urban areas to small towns, YMCAs have proudly served America's communities for nearly 160 years by building healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Visit to find your local YMCA.

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Kelly Kennai
(202) 835-9043

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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