A Publication of WTVP

In summer 2002, a health care open space forum was conducted by Peoria Area Labor Management (PALM). The purpose of the three-day forum was to discuss the future of health care in the Peoria region by engaging various stakeholders and key constituencies. Peoria, as a community, was evaluating the future of health care for its citizens as health premiums increased and the success of HMOs and managed care declined. Since then, the issue of health care in America is now front and center; it’s literally front-page news every day. As one result of the forum, PALM sponsored the Peoria presentation of "Consumer Driven Health Care" by in March.

Another result of the forum is the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their own health. Health care costs in the United States won’t decrease in the next 30 years. Can you name any business that has reduced costs? Even during the height of the managed care period, only the rate of increases moderated-not total costs.

It’s possible for health care costs to stabilize, but it will take each individual assuming personal responsibility for their own health. Fundamentally, as we grow older, we consume more health resources. For example, a person who turns 50 likely begins regular physical exams such as colonoscopies and mammography-health care expenses not typically incurred during your 20s and 30s.

A key initiative the business community should get behind for their employees, as well as the community, is a program entitled Coronary Health Improvement Project (C.H.I.P.). The C.H.I.P. program is nationally recognized and endorsed by the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine, based in Washington, D.C. It’s taught more than 25,000 people worldwide the lifestyle principles for reversing disease, preserving good health, and restoring vibrant living. This program is coming to Peoria to improve the health of our community.

The goal of the program is to educate participants on lifestyle choices and provide alternatives to improve their health. Participants learn how to eat more and weigh less; markedly reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer; and often normalize conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and diabetes by making a few deliberate lifestyle changes.

The Peoria pilot program begins at 5 p.m., January 13, 2004. The program runs every Tuesday for 12 weeks and concludes March 30. The cost for the pilot is $225 and includes pre- and post-heart screen, educational material, and water bottle. If participants attend 10 out of 12 classes and complete pre and post testing, they’ll receive a rebate of $50.

Employers should actively encourage and provide incentives for their employees to take health risk assessments and to take responsibility for lifestyle behaviors that can be modified. It’s ironic that finally, after years of experimenting with managed care and flirting with the idea of a single payor system, taking responsibility for health is now in vogue. IBI