The number of people covered by Medicaid in Colorado has risen to 457,699 – enough to fill the Pepsi Center 24 times.

The total has risen by more than 9,000 people since March, and by 72,597 compared to April of last year, according to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

“The increase in Medicaid enrollment is directly related to economic conditions and the outreach efforts by the department to increase the number of insured Coloradoans. The purpose of public health insurance programs is to help those who need it most. It is important that people becoming uninsured for the first time in their lives continue to receive health care coverage,” said John Bartholomew, chief financial officer for the department. “As more jobs are created through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the growth rate in Medicaid should slow down.”

The department administers the Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus programs as well as a variety of other programs for low-income, elderly and people with disabilities.

Healthier people

A behavioral intervention program delivered by e-mail is an effective way to improve diet and exercise by encouraging people to move more, sit less and choose healthy food, according to a Kaiser Permanente study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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The study was a control trial of the ALIVE (A Lifestyle Intervention Via Email) program conducted with 787 Kaiser Permanente employees at their worksites. The program, developed by NutritionQuest, sent weekly e-mails to 351 employees, while the other 436 employees received only immediate initial feedback indicating whether their reported physical activity and diet met national guidelines.

The messages included small, practical, individually tailored goals – eating fruit for a snack three times a week, walking for 10 minutes a day at lunch or walking to the store instead of driving.

At the end of the 16-week trial, participants in the intervention group were more physically active, eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing their intake of saturated fats and trans fats. The biggest changes occurred in those people who did not meet national standards for exercise and diet at the start of the trial.

“The takeaway message here for people who want to improve their diet and physical activity, and for employers who want a healthier work force, is that e-mail intervention programs are a very cost-effective way to get healthy,” said study lead investigator Barbara Sternfeld. “A tailored e-mail program includes all the things that behavioral scientists have said for years about changing behavior: small goals tailored for the individual, reinforcement and tracking – but delivered in a mass, cost-effective way.”

Paid for by a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study offers support for the potential of the Internet and e-mail to inspire healthier lifestyle choices. It is one of the first studies to send messages directly to inboxes, instead of requiring people to access messages on the Internet.

Given that the majority of Americans eat poorly and fail to exercise enough, effective e-mail programs could be a useful way to improve health, researchers say. According to the CDC, 55 percent of American don’t perform the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Additionally, the daily diet for about three-quarters of the population consists of more than 30 percent fat, a percentage that’s generally considered too high.

Another paper published during January in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that the ALIVE e-mail program reduced presenteeism among the trial participants and reduced bodily pain.

Presenteeism is lost productivity that occurs when employees come to work but perform below par because of illness. The study did not look at whether employees used the e-mail program during their lunch hour or during regular work hours.

“Using e-mail to get people active is a great use of existing technology that is cheap and readily available,” said Bob Sallis, a Kaiser Permanente family physician who is the regional exercise champion for Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California region and immediate past president of the American College of Sports Medicine. “Anything we can do to increase activity level is going to improve health because we know that exercise is medicine. It’s medicine you can take to live a longer and healthier life.”

Dentist honored

Colorado dentist Andrew Goldsmith contributed $25,000 in dental services to victims of domestic abuse during the past year – a feat that earned him an award from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation.

Goldsmith received the Partners in Peace award for his work in Give Back a Smile. Domestic violence survivors who have suffered dental injuries from abuse by former partners or spouses can contact the program at (800) 773-4227. They must make an appointment with a counselor, domestic violence advocate, social worker or therapist to complete the advocacy section of the application.

If eligible, the program connects the survivor with a local volunteer who provides treatment at no charge.

More than 730 cases have been completed – in an amount of $6.9 million – since the program’s inception during 1999.

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Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.


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