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Health Care Service Corporation And Northwestern University Announce Collaboration To Combat Osteoarthritis
Innovative Pilot Program Addresses the Link Between Obesity and the Growing Number of Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis

CHICAGO, Nov. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), the nation's largest customer-owned health insurer, and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine announce a collaborative research initiative called Joint ADventure, focused on improving symptoms and quality of life for those with signs of knee osteoarthritis (OA). Funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Joint ADventure aims to prevent work absenteeism, work disability and increased healthcare costs associated with knee OA through a workplace intervention pilot program with HCSC employees.

The obesity epidemic in this country has led to growing numbers of adults with knee osteoarthritis. Nearly 50 percent of all adults and two-thirds of obese adults are expected to develop symptomatic knee OA at some point in their lives. Knee OA is already a major cause of arthritis-related disability, resulting from difficulty doing major activities such as walking, climbing stairs, kneeling or stooping. Because obesity and knee injury (both risk factors for the development of knee OA) are increasing in the US, the lifetime risks and the absolute number of persons with knee OA and consequent disability are projected to rise dramatically.

Joint ADventure, a two-year research initiative designed specifically for adults with chronic knee symptoms, will develop, implement and test a program to address knee symptoms and improve the quality of life for participants with or at risk for developing OA. Approximately 90 HCSC employees will voluntarily participate in a twelve-month intensive physical activity and nutrition intervention which includes weight loss goals, fostered by better nutrition and physical activity benchmarks. The program also includes a lifestyle intervention led by a nurse clinical specialist, fitness expert, dietitian, and an occupational therapist from Northwestern University, which will provide motivational coaching and cohort sessions focused on adopting healthy eating and exercise routines. The participant selection process for the program is currently underway. The intention is to replicate the program's successes with HCSC members and employer groups.

"Our partnership with HCSC is a great example of how the public and private sector can join to work together to find an effective, replicable and sustainable intervention strategy for those with - or at risk for - knee OA to attain and maintain healthy behaviors," said chief investigator Dr. Rowland Chang, M.D., professor of preventive medicine and director of the Institute for Public Health and Medicine at Northwestern's Feinberg School. "Knee OA is a major cause of work disability and absenteeism. Our hope is that the results of this study will provide a blueprint that will lead to fundamental changes in the way lifestyle interventions are delivered to large employed populations."

Results will be measured based on the evaluation of participant positive lifestyle behavior modifications including physical activity, dietary behavior measures and the assessment of OA pain and self-reported health related quality of life improvements.

"HCSC is committed to working with organizations that will help us to identify solutions for major health issues that afflict our members," said Dr. Paul Handel, chief medical officer, HCSC. "Our partnership with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine will provide invaluable insight and, eventually, new ways for our members to manage their health who are at risk of developing OA."

This research initiative is supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, grant number R21 AR062317.

About Health Care Service Corporation
Health Care Service Corporation is the country's largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall, with more than 13 million members in its Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. A Mutual Legal Reserve Company, HCSC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, please visit www.HCSC.com, visit our Facebook page or follow us at www.twitter.com/HCSC.

About Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, founded in 1859, attracts talented individuals to its faculty, staff, and student body through its cutting-edge research initiatives, superb clinical facilities, global outlook, and innovative curriculum. Consistently ranked high on the list of best research medical schools, Feinberg is part of the vibrant educational and cultural community of Northwestern University, an independent private institution founded in 1851, and is a central component of a premier academic medical center, Northwestern Medicine. Located on the Northwestern campus in the heart of Chicago's Magnificent Mile, Feinberg has built a national reputation for excellence through a strong history of collaborative, interdisciplinary medical education and research. Feinberg's top-rated clinical affiliates include Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, as well as numerous hospitals and clinics across the region. To learn more, visit www.feinberg.northwestern.edu

SOURCE Health Care Service Corporation

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