100-Day Dash: Stepping up to the challenge of better health

Sport shoes running Close-up

Humana associates set a goal of taking 10 billion steps for the company’s third annual 100-Day Dash, a friendly competition that motivates individuals to improve their own health and well-being or inspire others to get up and get moving. This year’s 15,000 participants met that goal – and added another billion steps. The 11 billion-step total is 4 billion more than last year.

The number of participants in the 2014 competition, which was held August 8-November 25, also increased 30 percent over last year. Associates, who use pedometers or other wearable devices to track steps, can compete as individuals or form teams to win prizes, such as Vitality Bucks for those enrolled in the HumanaVitality incentive program. Participants find fun ways to boost their step total through challenges to each other, instituting walking meetings, running or walking in charitable events in their communities or even learning a few new dance steps.

Those who have taken part in the annual contest enjoy winning Vitality Bucks and other prizes, but say that the rewards they value most are losing weight and gaining energy and other overall health improvements as well as forming new friendships and building camaraderie among co-workers. Some report significant weight loss, running their first road race or share the ups and downs of their journey to better health through blogs.

The energy and commitment to become healthier doesn’t end with the contest. Many associates report a permanent shift to a healthier lifestyle, and will continue to show support for each other by instituting new fun challenges, such as the Healthy Holiday Hop.

Humana associates took 11 billion steps during the 100-Day Dash, an annual competition that is held to inspire a healthier lifestyle. (Photo by Lisa Huber)

Humana associates took 11 billion steps during the 100-Day Dash, an annual competition that is held to inspire a healthier lifestyle. (Photo by Lisa Huber)

Humana San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon weekend: Inspiring better health

Thousands of supporters and volunteers cheered on the 24,000 competitors who participated in several events as part of the Humana San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon on Dec. 6-7.

The winners of the men’s and women’s marathon, Jacob Buhler and Elizabeth Howard, are San Antonio residents, but other race participants came to the city from all 50 states and several countries.

Some were running their first race and some have been running for years. Some were young and some were living young at 80-plus. Some were in wheelchairs or running on prosthetic legs. Some were cancer survivors. But they all shared a commitment to better health and well-being, determination to overcome challenges and the perseverance to log hundreds of miles and hours of training time. All were inspiring.

“You have this tremendous turnout from people who are interested in staying active, running is part of it … I want to continue to be part of it and work with the next generation so we raise the fitness level and the health level in this country,” said Jim Ryun, Olympic champion and running legend.

“It’s not about just the marathon … it’s about all the events – being able to cycle … do a 10K,” said Humana Vice President Pattie Dale Tye, who participated in the half-marathon along with Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard. “It’s about being able to volunteer in this community.  There’s something for everyone.”

Watch the video above to get a glimpse of the joy, pride and fun shared by those who ran and those who cheered them on.

Humana, KaBOOM! partner on 53rd playground

Humana and KaBOOM! began a partnership in 2011, building a multigenerational playground in Lauderhill, Florida, as part of Humana’s 50th anniversary celebration. And on December 6, in Humana’s 53rd year, the Humana Foundation, KaBOOM! and the community of Tomball, Texas, built the 53rd playground resulting from that partnership.

“For me, it’s the ability for families to come together and spend time, and I hope that is generation after generation after generation,” said Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard, whose family donated the land for the Tomball playground.

Watch the video above to hear more about Saturday’s build from the volunteers, and check the links below for more about the impact the playgrounds are having on communities around the country.

Related videos and stories:

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon weekend kicks off in San Antonio

The Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Half Marathon, Relay and 5K race weekend kicked off Friday in San Antonio with a Health & Fitness Expo where runners and their supporters gathered to learn, be inspired to Olympic champions Frank Shorter and Jim Ryun – and have a lot of fun.

The multi-generational event includes free biometric screenings and activities for the mind and body that show how much fun healthy living can be. There is also a Charity Miles sign-up station, where volunteers, race participants and their supporters can download a free app that will generate donations to one of 25 charities. Charity Miles will donate 25 cents to users’ chosen charities for every mile they walk, run or bike this weekend.

The expo, which is free and open to the public, continues Saturday from 9:30 a.m-5 p.m. at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio.

The weekend of races begins Saturday, December 6, with a 10K and continues with the marathon, half marathon, relay and 5K on Sunday morning.

Check the blog next week to see another video and a wrap-up of this weekend of racing and healthy fun in Texas.

Happiness: The Role of the Social Network

BB social blog

In a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His topics range from the powerful potential of technology to the issue of loneliness. His latest, Happiness: The Role of the Social Network, is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

Bruce_Broussard_MEDIres.jpg WWhat’s more impactful on your health – eating a salad for lunch because you need your fruits and vegetables or spending time with the people who make you happy?

We all know what it takes to be healthy on the physical side – eat right, get plenty of sleep and exercise daily. But what about our overall well-being?

Let’s take our senior population. When it comes to helping seniors with their health and well-being, healthy eating and activity are important. But as a person ages, the ability to find happiness is so much more than just the treatment of medical care. This is a challenge: as people age, the distance between them and their community becomes greater.

Studies have shown that there is a “connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.” If people are happier, they’re more likely to be engaged with others who share the same goals, lifestyles and social settings.

To make an impact on an individual’s health, you have to create a mentally and stimulating environment where people have things – and other people – that make them happy. It’s not just about health; it’s about the other side of the coin: well-being.

Looking to the Past
In my own experience, I have seen that a supportive environment helps promote social interaction and happiness can have a profound impact on health and well-being.

Several years ago, I bought an old, fixer-upper 1920’s grand hotel situated on a six-acre property on the Florida coast and turned it into Riviera Assisted Living.

We sought to keep the grand nature of it alive but ensure it had the welcoming feel of an engaged, social and vibrant community. We wanted the environment at Riviera to encourage community and support family and friendship – elements of a social environment that espoused happiness and good health – and it needed to permeate every aspect of the care we provided.

The people who entered Riviera had poor nutrition, below average health, weren’t socially active and had tended to be isolated. After a month in our social environment, we witnessed significant positive changes in our residents. They were not only physically healthier but feeling better mentally – happier. Our residents enjoyed each other and were often engaged in joyous conversation. In many instances, they saw each other as family.

We always focused on delivering the best medical care possible but placed a heavy emphasis on the social network: trips to Walmart, visits at the park beach, bingo night. These social networks created by our residents were truly driving changes that were going beyond well beyond their physical health. Many were not only happier but also healthier.

The Community Element
Social networks like the ones we saw foster in Riviera can lay the foundation by creating an environment that can promote and encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle, whether it’s a morning walking group or neighbors tending to a community garden.
For instance, when it comes to communities that encourage good health, take the examples in Dan Buettner’s insightful book: “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” Buettner teamed up with National Geographic to find communities around the world where people live considerably longer, healthier and happier lives.

In his research, Buettner “identified nine powerful yet simple lessons that debunk the most common myths and offer a science-backed blueprint that could give the average American another 12 quality years of life.” From a Greek island to a peninsula in Costa Rica, Buettner’s fascinating articles showcase how people in these areas are living longer – and equally important – healthier and happier – lives. I highly recommend reading about these people and places.

While several of Buettner’s “Power 9” lessons had to do with healthy eating and exercise, a third of his list – from the second edition of his book – grabbed my attention:

  • Purpose NowTake time to see the big picture.
  • Right TribeBe surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values.
  • Loved Ones FirstMake family a priority.

When it comes to our senior population, these “Power 9” examples not only reminded me about my experience with Riviera but also how we’re approaching health today when it comes to our senior population.

Where We Are Today
Look at how today’s “senior” population is changing. Every day more than 10,000 people turn 65 and are living much longer, active and more social lives. For many of these Baby Boomers, 65 has become the new 55.

If people have a purpose, it’s been my experience that they’re going to channel their positive energy in their pursuit and navigate towards other like-minded individuals, where a social setting will influence them.

Health is personal and it always will be. While we all have our own best health we seek to achieve, the communities we live in can have a significant influence on our lifestyle choices and – more importantly – help keep us on the right track to better health. With a supporting environment of like-minded individuals, each of us is inadvertently helping each other live healthy lives. Put simply: if you hang out with people who like to garden, you’re going to eat a lot healthier.

Going Forward
At Humana, we have a saying: “good health can also be contagious.” The impact of well-being doesn’t just start with a person’s health; it encompasses social networks that support healthy lifestyles; loving relations with family and/or friends.

People ask me what I feel is missing from health care. While I tend to highlight the importance of technology or how we reimburse our physicians – these are critical initiatives that will transform health care – it’s about the social network.

We’re at our best when we have a purpose that drives us and when we engage others in what we enjoy. We’re at our best when we smile and laugh; when we support one another; when we help people get up when they fall down.

The pursuit of happiness can not only lead to love, but also to better health.

Chicago nonprofit brings urban farm to food desert, sowing seeds for change

(Note: This is the third in a series of videos and articles profiling the three winners of this year’s $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grants.)

The PCC Community Wellness Center in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood was built with an all-glass front to visually demonstrate that all local residents are welcome to come in, said Robert Urso, President and CEO of the center. But he soon realized that PCC needed to do more than invite people into the building. He and his staff needed to leave the four walls of the building and really join the community.

“We’re here for the community,” Urso said of the medically underserved area, “and it’s not just to provide health care. We need to help make life better, easier.”

PCC Community Wellness Center, which recently won a $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grant, is taking a giant step toward achieving its dream of giving back to the community by turning an 8,000-square-foot vacant lot into an urban farm that will bring fresh, affordable produce to a food desert on the west side of Chicago.

Doctors would talk to their patients about ways to create a healthier lifestyle, but local residents, many struggling with poverty-related health issues, didn’t have easy access to the fresh fruits and vegetables that they needed to improve their diets, said Urso.

The Humana Communities Benefit grant provided the center with an opportunity to make its dream come true, said Urso. The grant will be used to design and build the farm and train those who will sustain it.

PCC has deep roots in all of the communities its 11 centers serve and places a priority on employing local residents, such as Tyrise Brinson, Healthy Start Specialist at the Austin center and a passionate advocate for the farm and her neighborhood.

“I believe this will change the fabric of the community,” said Brinson. “It’s huge.

“There’s a seed that’s planted and then something beautiful sprouts from it,” she said. “And I believe that’s the same thing that’s going to happen to this community with this garden … one member at a time.”

PCC asked Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest to design and help build the farm, which will be named by local residents.

Transforming the vacant lot into a beautiful garden will also help transform the community, said Angela Mason, Director of Windy City Harvest, the urban agriculture job training program for the Chicago Botanic Garden.

In addition to the 30 raised beds where produce will grow, the farm will include an outdoor gathering space and offer opportunities for residents to be more active and get outside as they walk to and from the garden and help maintain it by weeding and raking, said Mason.

The plans also include seasonal workshops to expand knowledge about the food they are growing, classes about diet-related diseases and activities for children that promote healthier choices.

“The benefits to a community are profound,” said Mason, who explains that urban gardens can promote the growth of new relationships between neighbors who develop a shared passion in improving their own health and well-being as well as the health of their neighborhood.

The urban gardens improve diets, but they also nourish the community as whole, planting a seed of an idea that becomes a dream that grows and spreads to neighboring communities, she said.

PCC Community Wellness Center in Chicago's Austin neighborhood was built with an all-glass front to visually demonstrate that all are welcome to come in. (Photo and story by Ellen Nason)

PCC Community Wellness Center in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood was built with an all-glass front to visually demonstrate that all are welcome to come in. (Photo and story by Ellen Nason)

2014 Humana Communities Benefit Grant Winners
In addition to PCC Community Wellness Center, two other nonprofits received a $350,000 grant. To learn more about them, click on the links below.

Humana and Clinton Foundation partner to help improve health in Mississippi county

Gillian Sealy , National Director of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, announces November 19 in Natchez, Mississippi, that Humana and the Clinton Foundation will partner to help improve the health of Adams County by 20 percent by 2020.

Gillian Sealy, National Director of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, announces November 19 in Natchez, Mississippi, that Humana and the Clinton Foundation will partner to help improve the health of Adams County by 20 percent by 2020.

Humana and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation Wednesday announced a partnership to help improve the health of Adams County, Mississippi, by 20 percent by 2020. The multi-year initiative from Humana and the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) will work with people in Adams County, in and around Natchez, Miss., to remove barriers to well-being and improve the health of Mississippians.

“Health Matters applauds its partner Humana and the leadership of Natchez and Adams County for their systems-change approach to address the health and well-being of its residents,” said Rain Henderson, Chief Executive Officer, Clinton Health Matters Initiative. “Using a collective impact model to engage stakeholders at all levels of this initiative ensures that there is a seat at the table for everyone and sustainable solutions can be as diverse as the citizens of their community.”

The commitment stems from a pledge made at the 2014 Clinton Health Matters Initiative conference in January of this year. Humana and the Clinton Foundation announced at that time that the two organizations would jointly select a community to improve health. This continues a partnership between the two organizations that began several years ago, with the “Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation” PGA TOUR event, and the Humana Foundation’s offering of wellness grants and website resources to 51 California schools where the Clinton Foundation’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation is active.

“We want to make it easy for people to achieve their best health,” said Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard. “In Adams County, Humana and the Clinton Foundation are committed to a multi-year partnership to co-create new health solutions with the county’s leaders and citizens. Throughout our partnership we’ll work together to build innovative solutions that can eventually be applied to communities across the country and around the world. The plan we build together will be a plan that the people of Adams County can get excited about as they work to improve their health.”

Recently, the partners agreed to focus their efforts on Mississippi, a state that faces more health challenges than most. Adams County continues to demonstrate some of the poorest health outcomes in the state, and like many areas throughout the United States, the county has seen an increase in the number of people suffering from poor health and facing barriers to improvement. In the face of these challenges, leaders in Adams County want to drive change and have shown an openness to trying fresh approaches to healthy living and disease prevention.

“We’re excited about this partnership and the great potential it holds for Adams County,” said Natchez Mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown. “We’re looking forward to working with Humana and the Clinton Foundation, as well as leveraging our local talent and resources, to empower the people of this community to improve their health and well-being.”

Humana and the Clinton Foundation are both already engaged in significant work in Mississippi.

One year ago, when the state faced a potential health insurance challenge Humana deployed the “Covering Mississippi” initiative to give residents more information about their health plan options under the Affordable Care Act. The Covering Mississippi tour provides free, private health insurance education and enrollment assistance to residents in local communities and is continuing this year.

The Clinton Foundation is active in the state through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program and the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, works to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and to empower kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits.

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Humana tops list of “Best USA Health Care Companies to Work For”

Humana is the best health care company to work for, according to Healthcare Global.

Healthcare Global’s top 10 list puts Humana in the top spot followed, in order, by Mayo Clinic, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealth Group, Cerner, Cleveland Clinic, Providence Health & Services Northwest Region, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In its announcement of the top 10, Healthcare Global noted that Humana earned a 100 percent score on the 2014 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, which recognized the company for policies and practices encouraging workplace diversity and inclusion. Humana’s initiatives for veterans and military families were also highlighted.

Up2Us: Coach-mentors using power of sports to transform children’s lives

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On most evenings, Raul Alcala, 16, can be found at the Chicago Youth Boxing Club, exercising and training with his coach, Gabriel Navarro. Raul, a Junior Olympian, is a talented and dedicated athlete who takes his training seriously, but his main focus is not on winning competitions in the ring. It’s about staying fit, getting an education and gaining self-awareness, confidence and discipline. It’s about learning life skills that will help him make better decisions and become resilient so he can handle any punches that life may throw his way.

All around him boys and girls of varying ages are exercising, working on homework and learning lessons that could change the course of their lives, breaking a cycle of violence, fear and limited options.

They meet in the basement of LaVillita Community Church in Little Village, a Chicago neighborhood that has faced more than its share of challenges, including gang-related violence that has created long-term trauma and stress for those growing up there. The church and the boxing club offer a calming sanctuary from the day-to-day stress and help bring the community together.

Navarro, who grew up in the neighborhood, has always had an interest in sports, teaching and helping his community. A Humana Foundation grant awarded to Up2Us in Chicago gave Navarro a new opportunity to use his passion and skills to support the underserved youth in his community. Navarro became a participant in Coach Across America, an Up2Us national service program that immerses coach-mentors in intensive training in youth development, nutrition, trauma-sensitivity and education.

The Chicago Youth Boxing Club meets in the LaVillita Community Church. (Photo and story by Ellen Nason)

The Chicago Youth Boxing Club meets in the LaVillita Community Church. (Photo and story by Ellen Nason)

Up2Us, whose mission is to advance sports as a solution to the critical challenges facing America’s youth, has demonstrated success with the Coach Across America program. The majority of coaches, who work with local organizations within their own communities in a wide variety of sports, say that the training has helped them better connect sports to life skills that the youth they serve need to succeed and to build stronger relationships. Data also shows significant improvement in the physical activity levels of the participants in the youth programs led by coaches who received the training.

Navarro said the training has helped him demonstrate peaceful methods for resolving conflict, which is particularly important in urban areas that are violence-prone.

The training has been transformative and helped him change his thought processes, he said.

“The kids open up more to me,” said Navarro. “They are more engaged and understand that walking away is a better option than confrontation or giving in to peer pressure.”

He is also more aware of the need to create opportunities for new experiences and to emphasize the importance of inclusivity. He is passionate about pulling his community together and building stronger relationships is a priority.

“It’s family here,” said Navarro. “We want them hanging out here rather than in the street. We’re changing the game.”

“We don’t want to just be a boxing club,” said Victor Rodriguez, pastor at LaVillita Community Church, “We’re not just looking for the next (boxing) champion.” Instead, Rodriguez said, the focus is on academics, better nutrition, team building, youth development, serving the community and learning compassion. “It’s about the kids – and a better future.”

Rodriguez said he has seen growth in Navarro since he completed his Coach Across America training, and believes he is an even stronger role model for the boys and girls in the boxing club, who are showing their own growth with better decision-making and time management, asking for help when needed and seeing their own value as they set goals for the future.

The coaches in the basement of the Little Village Church are helping the kids get fit and develop boxing skills, but it is not about fighting for a victory in the ring. They are fighting for positive change and to end the violence. They are fighting for a better, healthier future. They are changing the game – and there are no losers.

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