BluesWeek: Employees Begin Relocating to RenCen Tower 600 in Detroit

The Blues have begun moving employees into renovated offices in Tower 600 of the GM Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. The first 281 employees moved into newly renovated offices in Tower 600 earlier this week, and another 306 will arrive Monday from Southfield. Blue Cross’ downtown Detroit campus will have more than 6,000 employees when the final moves wrap up this summer.

The submission period for the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest is now closed, with dozens of entries submitted from across the state. Readers can vote for their favorite finalists for two weeks starting April 11 on A Healthier Michigan. The winner, to be announced in early May, gets a school assembly with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to be a featured guest blogger.

Grace Derocha, a blogger on A Healthier Michigan and Blue Cross registered dietitian, takes her portion-control suitcase to the airwaves Friday to talk serving sizes and how to “live green” with fruits and vegetables. She touts health benefits including reduced blood pressure, weight loss and maintenance and more on Fox 2 News Friday during the 10 a.m. hour.

The April installment of The Healthier Michigan Radio Show examines the simple yet effective health benefits of walking. Host Ann Thomas interviews guests Jodi Davis, BCBSM’s walking advocate and blogger, and Blues health coach and blogger Angela Jenkins. The episode airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 on both WJR-AM and WJIM-AM in Lansing. It’s also available for listening online or as a podcast.

In Case You Missed It…

BCBSM is sponsoring an encore season of “Ernie” the play May 3 through July 28 at City Theater in Detroit. Written by media personality Mitch Albom, the play celebrates the life of legendary former Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who also served as a health and fitness advocate for the Blues.

BluesWeek is a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy tidbits under way at BCBSM.

Photo by tukanuk

Live Downtown Residency Incentives are Helping to Rebuild Detroit

Efforts by engaged businesses and their activated employees to bring people to live where they work and play are breathing new life into downtownDetroit.

I spoke Tuesday at the annual luncheon meeting of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. As I look around at the progress we’ve made under the leadership of Cindy Pasky, I’ve never seen more buzz or tangible action on the streets.

Drawing Residents

The response to Live Downtown, a cash incentive program designed to bolster residency in the central business district and key adjoining neighborhoods, has been tremendous. In the first six months after we announced it in July 2011, we’ve approved more than 100 applications for new home purchases and rentals, existing rentals and home renovations. Another 250 employee applicants, including 50 pre-approved applicants, are in the pipeline.

More than three quarters of the applications to the program are coming from suburban residents who want to move into the city. At Blue Cross alone, we’ve had more than 12,000 hits to our internal Live Downtown website and nearly 200 employees who have applied for the program.

Live Downtown is a $4 million-plus initiative by the Blues, Compuware, Quicken Loans, DTE Energy and Strategic Staffing Solutions. Eligible participants can get a forgivable loan of up to $20,000 to purchase a home, $3,500 for a new rental and up to $5,000 for exterior renovations for projects worth at least $10,000.

Core Investments

Commitments from the five companies that sponsor Live Downtown have led to 7,000 additional jobs and roughly $120 million in new investment in Detroit since 2010.

This week, in fact, sees more than 280 BCBSM employees report for work for the first time at renovated offices in the Renaissance Center Tower 600. Another 305 will join them next week after relocating from Southfield, and by this summer, when our final moves have been completed, Blue Cross will have more than 6,300 employees on its unified downtown Detroit campus.

The moves add to the great progress we’re making at the DDP, a sampling of which are listed below (or read our 2012 Annual Report):

  • Developing a new Downtown Retail Strategy to work with downtown property owners with the goal of attracting 15 to 20 new retailers into Woodward Avenue storefronts by 2014
  • Supporting the Detroit Public Lighting Department as it retrofitted more than 1,000 streetlights to use energy-efficient LED lights in key areas of downtown
  • Launching D:hive, a collaborative effort to attract and retain new talent to Detroit through services including referrals, tours, real estate market information and start-up classes for aspiring entrepreneurs

While this is a great start, we’re nowhere near being done. The city’s current financial crisis shows that tough decisions — and far-sighted thinking and investment — are needed from business, residents and all who love Detroit.

But as I told Carol Cain for a recent Detroit Free Press column, I remain confident about the investments Blue Cross and others are making. If we work together in a sustained effort, momentum is on our side.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the executive committee chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

Photo by utopiandreaming

Elementary Schools Can Still Apply for Childhood Obesity Prevention Grants

Building Healthy Communities grant applications are still being accepted for the 2012-2013 school year. Selected elementary schools will receive a healthy school transformation package of program materials, curriculum, equipment, professional development, mentoring and technical support valued at $30,000.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. March 30.

We are excited about the upcoming Building Healthy Communities program year and some of the new elements offered to participating schools. Last fall, Blue Cross announced its expanded commitment to combating childhood obesity by partnering with the Center for School Health in the College of Education at Wayne State University and the Michigan Fitness Foundation on its Building Healthy Communities school-based childhood obesity initiative.

Although BCBSM has supported childhood obesity prevention efforts since 2004 with more than $4.3 million in grant funding, we know we need to continue our efforts and build a greater coalition. Obviously there is much work to be done, as 30.6 percent of youth ages 10 to 17 in Michigan are overweight.

We believe the collaborative expertise of our partners will make a difference in the health of Michigan families and we look forward to working with schools in this effort.

To apply for the grant applications, click here.

BluesWeek: 2012 Blues’ Community Challenge Kicks Off in Grand Rapids With Body & Soul

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is teaming with the American Cancer Society to kick off the 2012 Blues’ Community Challenge Saturday, March 17 in Grand Rapids with Body & Soul. The Body & Soul challenge engages the African-American faith community in a 10-week wellness and nutrition initiative, with the winning churches to receive financial grants to support health ministry programs.

BCBSM awarded nearly $10,000 worth of wellness grants to the nine Lansing-area municipalities that participated in the Winter Warm-Up and Blues Community Challenge. There was a huge jump in the number of resident participants this year, with nearly 2,400 participants logging a record 208,862 miles during the eight-week walking and physical activity competition. Watch for a news release to go out Thursday.

National Nutrition Month collides with St. Patrick’s Day as the color green takes over. But instead of green beer, registered dietitian Grace Derocha will be offering tips on how to incorporate the color green for good health in your St. Patrick’s food on A Healthier Michigan and through media availabilities.

It may seem like spring has sprung early in Michigan, but there are Polar Plunge events taking place Saturday, March 17 in Kalamazoo and Marquette benefiting Special Olympics Michigan. Blue Cross is sponsoring Special Olympics Michigan’s Healthy Athletes Program.

In case you missed it…

As part of Patient Safety Awareness Week, A Healthier Michigan offered a pair of printable reminder cards to help prevent avoidable medication errors. The cards fit easily into any billfold and offer tips for what to ask a doctor who prescribes medications as well as a place to jot down which medications you’re currently taking.

The deadline is approaching for the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest on A Healthier Michigan. Children in grades 4 through 8 can submit a video showing how they would make Michigan healthier through March 25. The public gets to vote on the final 10 contestants to choose the lucky winner. The winning student will receive  a school assembly visit from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to guest blog on A Healthier Michigan.

BluesWeek is a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy tidbits under way at BCBSM.

Photo by New Orleans Lady

To Stay Safe as a Patient, Make ‘Be Aware for Safe Care’ Your Mantra

Patient safety is a serious issue in the United States. Experts estimate that as many as 98,000 people die in the U.S. every year due to medical errors. That’s more than die from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. So it’s important to understand what you can do to stay safe when receiving care.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is committed to being part of the solution. The Michigan Health and Hospital Association’s Keystone Center for Patient Safety and Quality — supported by BCBSM — has become a national leader in efforts to improve communication, reduce errors and prevent complications. In fact, BCBSM is in the midst of its second $6 million investment to help fund the Keystone Center initiatives, while providing incentives to hospitals to encourage participation.

BCBSM also sponsors 12 Collaborative Quality Initiatives with hospitals across the state that have reduced many types of hospital-associated infections, including ventilator-associated pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and urinary tract infections associated with indwelling catheters.

Each day, health care professionals are working together in hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and physician’s offices across Michigan. This collaborative strength focuses on creating a consistent process of care that reduces errors, prevents complications, and improves outcomes and has made Michigan a leading state in performance improvement.

However, there is still much work to be done, and patient safety as an issue can’t be something we think about only during Patient Safety Awareness Week, the National Patient Safety Foundation’s annual campaign to raise awareness.

“The foundation’s primary theme for this year is ‘Be aware for safe care,’” said S. George Kipa, M.D., BCBSM’s deputy corporate medical director. “This reinforces the concept that all stakeholders need to be aware of and take part in the ongoing collaborative efforts for improved patient safety.”

The focus on patient safety is an outgrowth of the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report, To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System

What can you do to keep you and your loved ones safe?

The National Patient Safety Foundation offers good tips through its Ask Me 3 program. By understanding the answers to three simple questions, patients are less likely to make mistakes when taking prescription drugs, preparing for a medical procedure or managing a chronic condition:

  1. What is my main health problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

You can also check out this brochure on medication safety.

Photo by UMHealthSystem

What’s it Like to Climb 70 Flights of Stairs? Blues Employees Do it to Support the American Lung Association

Four teams of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees raised nearly $11,000 for the American Lung Association as they joined other teams from the Detroit area for the annual Fight for Air Climb in Detroit.

Successful teams at the event climbed 1,035 steps to the top floor of the Renaissance Center, Michigan’s tallest building. In addition to devoting months to training, the four BCBSM-affiliated teams raised a grand total of $10,994 for the American Lung Association. The funds will support research into the causes, prevention and cure of lung diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

So how did the teams do it? Below are testimonials from employees who participated in the event. 

Kristie Stocker (Team Captain for Climbatize)

“I trained with my team co-captain, Autumn Molnar. We would climb the 22 flights to the top of the (BCBSM) Detroit Tower two times in a row, five days a week.

“When the going got tough on climb day, I remembered my Aunt Pat who died of lung-related complications, my uncle Jim who’s currently fighting lung cancer, and my best friend Brandy who suffers from asthma. I also remembered everyone who donated to support me and it pushed me to the top.

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BluesWeek: Helping Health Care Consumers Benefit from Patient Safety Awareness Week

Starting today, we’ll be publishing BluesWeek, a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy items, here on Blues Perspectives. It previously was an email advisory sent mostly to news media.

March 4-10 is Patient Safety Awareness Week, and the Blues will be spotlighting the issue with a series of blog posts featuring helpful tips and other resources for patients. Watch for posts here and on A Healthier Michigan on topics like things health care consumers can do to stay safe.

BCBSM is offering tips for how to “Get Your Plate in Shape” and make good food choices during National Nutrition Month. Registered dietitian Grace Derocha has simple suggestions available to help take the complexity out of nutrition. Occasional blog posts exploring the theme will also appear on A Healthier Michigan.

The Blues Community Challenge wraps up Saturday, March 10 in Lansing. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will award grants to the nine participating Lansing-area communities to support public health and wellness. The ceremony takes place at 9 a.m. at the Lansing Mall and includes health screenings, health and wellness displays, a celebratory walk through the mall and more.

There are two more Polar Plunge events taking place March 17 — one in Kalamazoo and another in Marquette. Participants jump into frigid waters to benefit Special Olympics Michigan. Blue Cross is encouraging employees and others to participate as part of a yearlong sponsorship of Special Olympics Michigan’s Healthy Athletes Program.

In case you missed it…

The March installment of the Healthier Michigan Radio Show takes an in-depth look at efforts to transform health care in Michigan. Joining host Ann Thomas were Dr. Jean Malouin, co-chair of the Michigan Primary Care Transformation project; Dr. Gina Buccalo, chief medical officer at St. John Providence Partners in Care; Dr. Kim Coleman, a Bloomfield Hills pediatrician who is part of the Blues’ Patient-Centered Medical Home program; and Marianne Udow, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation. You can still catch the show Sunday, March 11 at 9 p.m. on WOOD-AM in Grand Rapids, or download a podcast version or listen online here.

There are just a few short weeks remaining in the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest on A Healthier Michigan. Children in grades 4 through 8 have through March 25 to upload a video that creatively demonstrates their ideas to make Michigan healthier. The public will have the opportunity to vote on the final 10 contestants, and the winner gets a school assembly visit from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to guest blog on A Healthier Michigan.

Photo by UMHealthSystem

How the New Entrepreneurial Spirit in Detroit Benefits All of Michigan

Even if you’re not in the habit of perusing business news, you owe it to yourself to read Inc. magazine’s comprehensive new series, “Innovation Hot Spots: Detroit.” The package of 15 stories (yes, you read that number right) about the city’s new startup culture crystallizes why so many people like me are bullish on the Motor City.

One of the headlines in this series puts it well: We are witnessing “A Whole New Groove for the Motor City” take shape. All of us who care about Detroit specifically and Michigan more broadly should feel excited about our region’s newfound sense of optimism and possibility.

Proud to Partner

I’ve written before about how we’re aligning our actions at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan with efforts to strengthen core cities like Detroit — by relocating roughly 3,000 suburban employees to downtown, by being part of the Live Downtown residency initiative, and by partnering with local vendors to create jobs, embrace diversity and achieve key business objectives.

While consolidating our corporate campus serves definite business interests, one of the secondary goals was to help support a critical mass of businesses in the central business district with people able to support them with their money. With help from partners like General Motors, Compuware, DTE Energy, Ilitch Holdings, Quicken Loans and its founder-turned venture capitalist, Dan Gilbert, we’re starting to see the fruits of those efforts.

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‘Total Body Health’ Junior Achievement Storefront to Educate Kids About Health Insurance and Financial Literacy

A Junior Achievement event in China.

Educating young people about health insurance and health care planning empowers them to make better choices as they grow into adulthood. This is why we are proud to partner with Junior Achievement and Quicken Loans in support of the Quicken Loans JA Finance Park to help prepare Detroit-area kids to make informed and responsible choices that impact their ability to manage personal finances and individual health. 

“Health care costs and insurance are an important part of a personal budget,” said Bridget Hurd, director of BCBSM Community Responsibility. “Teaching students about the importance of health insurance and factors that impact insurance costs, including healthy lifestyle choices, may lead them to adopt healthier habits while contributing to the overall reduction of health care costs.” 

The Quicken Loans JA Finance Park program for middle and high school students includes:

  • Twenty-seven classroom lessons
  • Curriculum aligned with Michigan Content Standards
  • Teacher lesson plans and student workbooks that cover financial institutions, debit versus credit cards, salaries and taxes, investing, budgeting, and career exploration

After students complete the Junior Achievement course work at participating schools, a field trip to JA Finance Park for a one-day simulation on budgeting is scheduled. JA Finance Park now includes a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan health insurance storefront that students can visit to learn more about managing health plan choices.

At the Blue Cross “store” in Finance Park, students learn about health insurance plan premiums, copayments and costs not covered by insurance. Students visit the storefronts again and make payments for each of their purchases. At the end of the day, students receive a checkout report that tells them whether they were successful in creating a balanced budget. 

An independent evaluation in 2008 tested the knowledge students gained about budgeting through their experience at JA Finance Park. Student scores moved from 52 percent correct on the pre-test to 72 percent correct on the post-test.

More than 8,500 students participate in the JA Finance Park program each year. 

Visit jamichigan.org to learn more about our partnership with Junior Achievement, or to volunteer at JA Finance Park.

Photo by MeiGuoGuan