Hundreds of Asthmatic Youth Screened at Healthy Hoops® Program

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Keystone Mercy Health Plan, in Collaboration with the Healthy Hoops® Coalition, Hosts Annual Program to Address Asthma Management with the Help of Celebrities and Players of the Charlie Mack Celebrity Basketball Game

Keystone Mercy Health Plan, the largest medical assistance managed care organization in Pennsylvania

The Healthy Hoops program is revolutionizing the way we think about and treat asthma among our youngest health plan members

Keystone Mercy Health Plan, the largest medical assistance managed care organization in Pennsylvania, through its collaboration with the Healthy Hoops® Coalition, recently hosted Healthy Hoops, an asthma education and management program. The program was also attended by celebrities and players associated with the Charlie Mack Celebrity Basketball Game held the same day. More than 500 children and their families participated in the annual event held at the Hagan Arena, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA.

Healthy Hoops was created in 2003 and has served more than 2,500 youth with asthma in the southeastern Pennsylvania region. The program uses basketball as a vehicle to teach children and their families how to effectively manage asthma through appropriate medication usage, proper nutrition, monitored exercise and recreational activities.

Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of asthma in the nation and was ranked in 2010 by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America as the country’s eighth-worst city to live in for asthma sufferers. In 2009, the city was ranked 12th.

“The Healthy Hoops program is revolutionizing the way we think about and treat asthma among our youngest health plan members,” said Michael A. Rashid, president and CEO, AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, of which Keystone Mercy Health Plan is a member. “We’re relying more on information, education and preventive services to proactively manage and control the disease and its triggers while giving the kids a better quality of life,” continued Rashid.

A 2008 study of Philadelphia Healthy Hoops participants found a marked improvement in asthma management and quality of life each year members were enrolled in the program. Emergency room visits related to asthma attacks decreased by 41 percent from 2007 to 2008 while hospital visits due to asthma-related problems decreased by 78 percent. The study also revealed that Healthy Hoops participants are using their medications more effectively. From 2006 to 2007, participants, on average, showed a 12 percent increase in the use of controller medications, which help reduce severe asthma attacks. More than 60 percent of participants experienced a greater lung capacity and strength.

“Based on the remarkable results of the Healthy Hoops program in Philadelphia, AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies was able to expand the initiative to other parts of the country, through our associated health plans in South Carolina, Indiana and Kentucky,” explained Rashid.

The Keystone Mercy Healthy Hoops program provides participants with health assessments, including blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), height, weight and lung function testing. Participants also receive nutrition information and demonstrations on the use of asthma control devices such as peak flow meters and spacers. Asthma experts work with asthmatic participants and their caregivers to review and give recommendations for treatment and care plan options with a goal of teaching them how to manage and control their asthma at home.

In addition to the health care screenings, the children were invited to meet with the celebrity players in the Charlie Mack Celebrity Basketball Game and to attend the game immediately following the Healthy Hoops program. More than 50 professional athletes and celebrities have attended the Healthy Hoops program over the last two years, including rapper/actor T.I., Boston Celtic’s guard Ray Allen, actress Lisa Raye, Orlando Magic’s point guard Jameer Nelson and actor/singer Terrence Howard.

Maria Pajil Battle, senior vice president, Public Affairs and Marketing, Keystone Mercy Health Plan, said, “Keystone Mercy advocates for healthy eating, safe play and monitoring the external/environmental factors that cause asthma-related attacks. When kids and parents are educated about asthma, then and only then, are they in control.”

Battle continued, “I am so proud of the work Keystone Mercy employees put into this event each year. Through our affiliation with Charlie Mack and his annual ”Party 4 Peace” Celebrity Weekend, we are able to have our members engage and interact with their favorite television, movie and sports personalities, many of whom have asthma themselves or have been affected by the disease in some way. Not only is it a treat for our members, but it shows them, proof-positive, that overcoming the disease is possible and living with asthma doesn’t have to be a burden.”

About Keystone Mercy Health Plan

Keystone Mercy Health Plan, a member of the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of companies, is a Medical Assistance (Medicaid) managed care health plan serving more than 300,000 Medical Assistance recipients in southeastern Pennsylvania. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Keystone Mercy is a mission-driven company dedicated to helping members get care, stay well and build healthy communities. For more information about Keystone Mercy Health Plan, please visit http://www.keystonemercy.com.

About the Healthy Hoops Coalition

Healthy Hoops was created in 2003 by Keystone Mercy Health Plan in collaboration with the Healthy Hoops Coalition, whose members include Crozer-Keystone Health System, the American Lung Association, local basketball coaches and health organizations.

Healthy Hoops, an innovative, asthma education/basketball program, uses basketball as a platform to teach participants how to manage asthma through appropriate medication usage, proper nutrition, monitored exercise and recreational activities. The program provides comprehensive health screenings, individualized health action plans and targeted health education.

Due to the positive results and outcomes of the program's early years, Healthy Hoops has since been expanded to include younger asthmatic children, ages 3-6, and to include other areas in and around Philadelphia. Keystone Mercy Health Plan has also expanded Healthy Hoops to target a variety of additional disease states including childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Since its inception in 2003, more than 2,500 children and their families in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region have participated in the Healthy Hoops Program. Recognized by NCQA in 2006 for Innovative Practices in Multicultural Health Care, Healthy Hoops has expanded nationally, with programs established in South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana and Florida.

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