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ARTICLE Project Hope, UnitedHealthcare Unveil High-Tech Mobile Unit to Fight Chronic Diseases in New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (June 14, 2011) - Project HOPE and UnitedHealthcare today showcased a new high-tech mobile unit and educational campaign that is bringing much-needed health care services and resources to underserved communities in New Mexico's southern border and frontier areas.

 

The program features the "HOPEmobile," a 64-foot trailer outfitted with sophisticated telemedicine equipment that travels to underserved and remote areas of the state to provide free, comprehensive health screenings for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, pre-diabetes and other chronic conditions. HOPEmobile visits are planned throughout the state in 2011, including at community events such as the New Mexico State Fair in September. The HOPEmobile schedule is available online at www.HABITSforLife.org.

 

The HOPEmobile is staffed by a nurse and enables patients to be seen by medical specialists from the University of New Mexico - who may be located hundreds of miles away - using high-definition videoconferencing equipment that creates a patient experience similar to an in-person visit with a doctor. HOPEmobile's innovations in telemedicine, including high-definition video conferencing and sophisticated imaging, audio and diagnostic tools, will allow for improved care quality and interaction between patients and physicians.

 

The HOPEmobile program is crucial for New Mexico, where scores of residents each day go without essential primary care services and convenient access to medical specialists who can help patients better control various chronic conditions that can diminish quality of life and may even cause premature death.

 

"New Mexico has high rates for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and this screening program will help identify people who are at-risk and avert or slow the onset of chronic diseases through targeted education. The first step is to know your risks, which is what Project HOPE is providing through this program," said Nancy E. Brown-Connolly, director, Project HOPE, New Mexico.

 

The HOPEmobile is also being used to expand Project HOPE's ongoing Habits for Life initiative, a health education campaign that teaches healthy lifestyle habits such as nutrition and fitness. The mobile unit offers health education to local residents, as well as training opportunities for health care professionals, including doctors, nurses and community health workers, to help them provide better care and counsel to their patients on how to prevent or better manage chronic diseases.

 

"We believe that the HOPEmobile will play a critical role in helping to achieve better health immediately and over the long term for communities across New Mexico," said Elizabeth Soberg, CEO of UnitedHealthcare's Employer & Individual business, Rocky Mountain Region. "The key to helping people manage a chronic illness is enabling them to get the ongoing care they need, when they need it. This program is bringing health care directly to people where they live to ensure they're getting much needed care to manage their diabetes, heart disease and other conditions."

 

"Improving health care quality and access in rural New Mexico is one of the biggest challenges facing our state, which is why this program from Project Hope and UnitedHealthcare is so valuable to our residents," said Dr. Catherine Torres, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health. "By leveraging technology and information, Project Hope and UnitedHealthcare are touching the lives of countless New Mexico residents and improving the health and well-being of our state. We are grateful for their joint efforts to help people live healthier lives."

 

The HOPEmobile program is designed to address some of the biggest health concerns for residents in rural New Mexico, including type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes. Hispanics - who make up 44 percent of the state's population - are more predisposed toward type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The federal agency's latest estimate shows that about 12 percent of Hispanics aged 20 years or older had diagnosed diabetes, while 36 percent of Mexican Americans had pre-diabetes. Across all ethnicities, about 11 percent of American adults had diagnosed diabetes, while 35 percent had pre-diabetes.

 

If current trends continue, more than 50 percent of Americans could have diabetes by 2020 at a cost of $3.35 trillion over the next decade, according to an analysis by UnitedHealth Group's Center for Reform & Modernization. The report, "The United States of Diabetes: Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead," estimates that diabetes and pre-diabetes will account for an estimated 10 percent of total health care spending by the end of the decade at an annual cost of almost $500 billion - up from an estimated $194 billion in 2010.

 

"Project HOPE is recognized in the international community as a leader in developing education programs to address chronic diseases such as diabetes," said John P. Howe III, M.D., president and CEO, Project HOPE. "By teaming up with UnitedHealthcare, we are able to play a larger role in improving access to quality health care for people in rural New Mexico."

 

About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world's first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now provides medical training and health education, as well as conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 35 countries. For more information, please visit www.projecthope.org.

 

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.