Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance Programs Expand to Atlanta to Help Tackle City’s Diabetes Crisis

* Atlanta among first cities in the nation to have access to community-based programs from UnitedHealth Group, Walgreens and the Y proven to prevent and control diabetes

* Delta Air Lines among the first employers to offer Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance programs to their employees

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Atlanta residents are among the first in the United States to have access to Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance community-based programs that use proven approaches to help prevent and control diabetes.

“Diabetes is taking a devastating toll on our children, our families and our communities in Atlanta, but we have a program that is proven to help prevent the disease”

The two Alliance programs – available at no cost to participants – are:

* The Diabetes Prevention Program with the Y helps people with prediabetes and who are at high risk for diabetes prevent the disease through healthy eating, increased physical activity and other lifestyle changes;
* The Diabetes Control Program with Walgreens provides education and support from trained pharmacists and nurse practitioners to help people with diabetes better control their condition and reduce the risk of developing complications from diabetes, such as nerve, kidney and eye disease.

The Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance was launched in 2010 by founding partners UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), Walgreens (NYSE, NASDAQ: WAG), the Y and others.

Diabetes cost the country an estimated $194 billion in 2010. More than 50 percent of Americans could have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020 if current trends continue, according to an analysis from the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, which predicts diabetes and prediabetes 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.

In Georgia nearly 10 percent of the adult population has diabetes, including about 354,000 people who are unaware of their condition, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health. Diabetes costs the state an estimated $5.1 billion annually, according to Department estimates from 2006, the latest year for which data are available.

“Diabetes is taking a devastating toll on our children, our families and our communities in Atlanta, but we have a program that is proven to help prevent the disease,” said Catherine Palmier, M.D., chief medical director for UnitedHealthcare’s southeast region. “Diabetes is largely preventable – it is the small lifestyle decisions we make every day that make the biggest impact. These programs provide an opportunity for people in Atlanta to take control of their own health and tackle this disease.”

Delta Air Lines is one of the Alliance’s first customers in the area to offer the programs to its employees.

“Delta Air Lines is committed to helping our employees live healthy lives, and we are intensifying that effort by making the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance programs available to our employees and their dependents,” said Lynn Zonakis, Delta’s managing director of Health Strategy and Resources. “Through the DPCA and other programs, our 25,000 Atlanta-based employees are able to take better control of their health and learn healthy behaviors that help them lead more productive lives now and into the future.”

There is substantial evidence that supports early and aggressive intervention to help people avoid the health and financial toll of diabetes. The programs at the Y and Walgreens have been tested in controlled clinical trials or pilot projects with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Y, Indiana University, clinical centers, employers and retail pharmacies.

Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO), a world leader in diabetes care and a DPCA partner, works with health care professionals to create awareness and understanding of the value of the Alliance’s two anchor programs and helps them refer their patients to the appropriate program.

Diabetes Prevention Program: Addressing Weight and Lifestyle to Prevent Diabetes

The Diabetes Prevention Program is offered in Atlanta in partnership with the Y and is part of CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program. It is designed to bring evidence-based lifestyle interventions to communities by working with community-based organizations and third-party payers who adhere to a CDC-recognized, evidence-based curriculum. UnitedHealth Group and the Y are partners in the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

The program, offered by the Y, uses a group-based lifestyle intervention designed especially for people with prediabetes (people who are at high risk of developing diabetes). In an interactive group setting, a trained lifestyle coach helps participants change their lifestyle by educating them about healthy eating, physical activity and behavior modifications over a 16-session program. After the initial 16 core sessions, participants meet monthly for up to one year for added support to help them maintain their progress.

Research from the Diabetes Prevention Program clinical trial, led by the NIH with support from the CDC, has shown that with lifestyle changes and modest weight reduction, a person with prediabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease.

Diabetes Control Program: Reducing Dangerous, Costly Diabetes Complications

The Diabetes Control Program is offered in Atlanta in partnership with Walgreens. It provides people with diabetes access to trained Walgreens pharmacists and nurse practitioners who provide personalized coaching and counseling and who help patients improve adherence to their physicians’ treatment plans. The goal is for patients to improve blood glucose control – every percentage point drop in HbA1c levels, a commonly used blood glucose marker, reduces by 40 percent the risk of developing complications from diabetes such as heart disease, nerve disease, blindness and limb amputations.

“Walgreens is proud to partner with UnitedHealth Group to bring this comprehensive diabetes treatment and self-care management program to Atlanta,” said Colin Watts, Walgreens chief innovation officer. “We believe the Diabetes Control Program is an ideal model for managing one of the most pervasive and costly chronic diseases in the country. For years, Walgreens has been committed to serving the needs of people with diabetes, and we are customizing many of the program elements of Walgreens Optimal Wellness™, a national program capitalizing on the power of face-to-face interaction with a trusted Walgreens pharmacist or nurse practitioner, for application in the Diabetes Control Program. Walgreens is excited to bring this initiative to Atlanta and looks forward to collaborating with such a strong and innovative partner.”

Home Healthcare Laboratory of America (HHLA), a subsidiary of Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, another Alliance partner, provides screening tests to Control Program participants through the use of Lab-in-an-Envelope® services for use at home. HHLA mails HbA1c and lipid panel testing kits to participants every three months to provide a convenient method for them to regularly monitor blood glucose control and cholesterol levels.

Alliance Programs Rolling Out Nationally

Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance programs are available now in 13 markets in 10 states, including Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Indianapolis; Minneapolis; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Oklahoma City; Albuquerque, N.M.; New York; Livingston, N.J.; New Haven, Conn; and Atlanta. This year, the DPCA programs are launching in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and Houston, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Jacksonville and Orlando, Fla. The Alliance programs will continue to roll out in additional cities across the country through 2012.

Services offered by the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance may be contracted by any health insurer and plan sponsor. The Alliance marks the first time in the United States that a health plan is paying for evidence-based diabetes prevention and engaging pharmacists to support critical diabetes management programs. Currently, DPCA services are available at no out-of-pocket cost to participants enrolled in employer-provided health insurance plans through UnitedHealthcare and Medica.

The Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance is one of many UnitedHealth Group programs and services that fight diabetes, obesity and related health problems in creative, practical ways to help improve health care quality, expand support and coverage, and help bend the cost curve.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tips on Avoiding Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Schemes

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reminds the public to use caution when making donations in the aftermath of natural disasters. Unfortunately, criminals can exploit these tragedies for their own gain by sending fraudulent e-mails and creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions.

The FBI and the National Center for Disaster Fraud have an existing tip line to receive information from the public about suspected fraud associated with the earthquake and tsunami that affected Japan. Tips should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, (866) 720-5721. The line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, e-mails can be sent to disaster@leo.gov, and information can be faxed to (225) 334-4707.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud was created by the Department of Justice to investigate, prosecute, and deter fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when billions of dollars in federal disaster relief poured into the Gulf Coast region. Now, its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud from any natural or man-made disaster. More than 20 federal agencies, including the FBI, participate in the NCDF, which allows the center to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information related to disaster relief fraud.

The FBI continues to remind the public to perform due diligence before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations or individuals offering to provide assistance to the people of Japan. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, flyers, mailings, telephone calls, and other similar methods.

Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including:

* Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages because they may contain computer viruses.
* Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of charitable organizations or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
* Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
* Rather than follow a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status.
* Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
* To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
* Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use such tactics.
* Be aware of whom you are dealing with when providing your personal and financial information. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
* Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
* Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services. Most legitimate charities websites end in .org rather than .com.

Consumers can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Georgians Adjusting to 'New Normal' with Cautious Spending, Doubts on Economic Turnaround

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia consumers are not optimistic about the state's economic condition, with just 12 percent of respondents to the latest poll from Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA) saying they believe the economy has improved in the past year. The rest characterized Georgia's economic situation as either about the same or getting worse than last year, sentiments which could have a material impact on consumer saving and spending throughout the state.

The quarterly Georgia Credit Unions' "Paying Attention" report indicates that, while consumers are working to build a buffer of savings by cutting back on expenses and delaying large purchases, they are still unprepared to deal with any further financial setbacks. The report compiled recent poll responses from more than 4,000 credit union members and aggregated data from credit unions statewide.

"As national statistics start to show an increase in consumer confidence, Georgia credit union members are still wary about their own personal financial health," said Mike Mercer, president and CEO of GCUA. "If the economy strengthens, consumers could become more optimistic. But, in the meantime, we expect to see cautious plans for spending and especially borrowing. In fact, loan demand at Georgia credit unions has been very soft."

Consumer Poll

The full report, available at www.georgiacreditunions.org, includes poll results measuring Georgia consumers' current economic mood, as well as savings and spending trends. Among the report's findings:

* Only 12 percent of poll respondents believe the economy is improving compared to a year ago, with 40 percent saying they think it's getting worse.
* More than 30 percent (32.9 percent) of respondents said they experienced changes in their employment situation during the recession, ranging from layoffs to pay cuts to having to take a second job.
* More than one-third of respondents (35.7 percent) said they had no reserve savings to cover essential expenses if they were to lose their job or other source of income. On the other hand, 18.9 percent said they had enough savings to cover more than one year without a source of income.
* Almost two-thirds of respondents (65.6 percent) said they have changed their personal savings habits over the past six months, including spending less or cutting expenses like eating out and taking trips.
* Compared to 2010, respondents appear even more wary about making large purchases. 63.3 percent said they do not plan to purchase any big-ticket items in 2011, compared to 52.1 percent who said they avoided large purchases last year.
* Half (50 percent) of respondents say they will pay for their large purchases with cash from savings.

Credit Union Data Show Continued Trend Toward Savings

In conjunction with the consumer poll, GCUA compiled savings and lending data from 39 credit unions from across the state that represents 91 percent of credit union assets and 83 percent of members in Georgia. The findings, outlined in the chart below, reflect a continuing trend toward savings, while figures for lending varied:

* Savings deposits rose at an annualized rate of 5.42 percent during 2010, just slightly less than the 6.24 percent rise in 2009. Checking account balances also grew by 13.12 percent in 2010.
* New vehicle loans continue to decline, with more consumers opting for used car loans: new vehicle loan balances fell by 10.42 percent in 2010, while used car loan balances increased by 7.16 percent, continuing a trend from 2009.
* First mortgage balances increased by 9.89 percent in 2010.
* The number of bankruptcy filings among members rose 12.47 percent in 2010 compared to 2009.

More information is available at www.georgiacreditunions.org or on facebook.com/creditYOUnion.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NASA Research Finds 2010 Tied for Warmest Year on Record

/PRNewswire/ -- Global surface temperatures in 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to an analysis released Wednesday by researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

The two years differed by less than 0.018 degrees Fahrenheit. The difference is smaller than the uncertainty in comparing the temperatures of recent years, putting them into a statistical tie. In the new analysis, the next warmest years are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007, which are statistically tied for third warmest year. The GISS records begin in 1880.

The analysis found 2010 approximately 1.34 F warmer than the average global surface temperature from 1951 to 1980. To measure climate change, scientists look at long-term trends. The temperature trend, including data from 2010, shows the climate has warmed by approximately 0.36 F per decade since the late 1970s.

"If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long," said James Hansen, the director of GISS.

The analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements. A computer program uses the data to calculate temperature anomalies -- the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same period during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period acts as a baseline for the analysis.

The resulting temperature record closely matches others independently produced by the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.

The record temperature in 2010 is particularly noteworthy, because the last half of the year was marked by a transition to strong La Nina conditions, which bring cool sea surface temperatures to the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

"Global temperature is rising as fast in the past decade as in the prior two decades, despite year-to-year fluctuations associated with the El Nino-La Nina cycle of tropical ocean temperature," Hansen and colleagues reported in the Dec. 14, 2010, issue of Reviews of Geophysics.

A chilly spell also struck this winter across northern Europe. The event may have been influenced by the decline of Arctic sea ice and could be linked to warming temperatures at more northern latitudes.

Arctic sea ice acts like a blanket, insulating the atmosphere from the ocean's heat. Take away that blanket, and the heat can escape into the atmosphere, increasing local surface temperatures. Regions in northeast Canada were more than 18 degrees warmer than normal in December.

The loss of sea ice may also be driving Arctic air into the middle latitudes. Winter weather patterns are notoriously chaotic, and the GISS analysis finds seven of the last 10 European winters warmer than the average from 1951 to 1980. The unusual cold in the past two winters has caused scientists to begin to speculate about a potential connection to sea ice changes.

"One possibility is that the heat source due to open water in Hudson Bay affected Arctic wind patterns, with a seesaw pattern that has Arctic air downstream pouring into Europe," Hansen said.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

State Grant Will Help Prevent Underage Alcohol Sales and Service

/PRNewswire/ -- The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) has awarded a $91,400 grant to The Council on Alcohol and Drugs in order to establish and deliver regular Responsible Alcohol Sales and Service (RASS) Workshops in four counties in Georgia. The workshops help alcohol owners and licensees to become more knowledgeable in preventing selling and serving alcohol to underage clientele. Underage drinking has been shown to be a leading cause of auto accident-related crashes, deaths and injuries in Georgia.

The counties to be served and the main partners working with the Council in those counties are listed below.

1. Learn to Grow, Inc. (Fulton County)

2. Drug Free Coalition of Hall County

3. Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families (Rockdale County)

4. Spalding County Collaborative Authority for Families and Children

The grant will also work with Ms. Michele Stumpe, President/CEO of Evindi, Inc., the designer of and trainer for RASS Workshops, to replicate the success enjoyed by RASS Workshops in other counties in the state.

"The grant [Georgia's RASS Program] will allow for the provision of training, technical assistance and a media campaign to help educate stakeholders and alcohol retailers in Georgia about the purposes and need for RASS Workshops," stated Chuck Wade, President & CEO of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs.

Evaluation Results

2009-2010 results from the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University and the Burruss Institute for Public Service and Research at Kennesaw State University consistently show RASS training workshops to be an effective method for increasing knowledge and awareness of policies and issues related to preventing underage alcohol sales and service. The effectiveness of the workshops is demonstrated through both the knowledge-based pre and post-test comparisons as well as respondents' individual evaluations. Respondents' scores consistently increase on each measure from the pre-test to the post-test. Typically 98-100% of alcohol owners and licensees rate the program positively across all measures.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Harry Potter Wizard Legal Battle to Continue in English High Court, Despite US Dismissal

PRNewswire/ -- The Estate of Adrian Jacobs, the deceased British children's author, regrets that its US breach of copyright action, brought in good faith against Scholastic INC in relation to Harry Potter in the USA has been summarily dismissed by a New York Judge.

The Estate's US attorneys are presently analysing the judgment with a view to lodging an Appeal.

The Trustee Paul Allen stated that "This US decision has no legal bearing upon the Estate's established action in the High Court of England against J.K.Rowling personally and her publishers Bloomsbury over breach of copyright in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. That case is scheduled for a 10 day trial in February 2012 when the Estate hopes that evidence and cross examination will be heard in open court for the first time.

Major Disclosures are expected over the next few months.

The English case, involves allegations by the Estate of Adrian Jacobs that J.K. Rowling copied a substantial part of Jacobs' visionary 1987 book.

The Adventures of Willy The Wizard No 1 Livid Land, into her book Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire published 13 years later by Bloomsbury.

Trustee Paul Allen says "Jacobs' Estate will continue to vigorously pursue its Claim in London. The massive amount of evidence brought by the Estate, in the English High Court included forensic linguistic analysis, factual testimony relating to Rowling and her agent Chris Little, and evidence from experts in Children's fantasy literature demonstrating startling similarities between the two books."

In The Adventures of Willy The Wizard, a short, densely written, beautifully illustrated book, Adrian Jacobs created a fantasy world intertwined with the real world in which there are Wizard Schools, Villages of Wizard Brewers, Gambling Wizards, Wizard Chess played on Wizard Trains, special Wizard Hospitals, Wizard Travel by magic powder, apparently headless creatures, Elves as Wizard Helpers, International Gatherings of Wizards, Human Memory Erasers, etc.

The Estate claims that all of these Jacobs' concepts are part of Jacobs' original themes, many new to the genre, echoed and copied in Harry Potter and familiar now to Potter readers.

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Severe Winter Weather Threatens Georgia

/PRNewswire/ -- A winter storm is threatening Georgia this weekend and Verizon Wireless urges residents to have their emergency communications plans in place. The company offers the following tips:

* Keep wireless phone batteries fully charged – in case local power is lost – well before warnings are issued.
* Have additional charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for back-up power.
* Keep phones, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location.
* Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers – police, fire, and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers; etc. – and program them into your phone.
* Limit non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations. Send brief TXT messages rather than voice calls for the same reason.
* Check weather and news reports available on wireless phone applications when commercial power is out.

Experts are predicting icing of roads, some tree damage, and possible power outages Sunday night into Monday morning throughout central and northern Georgia. Regardless, the Verizon Wireless network is built for reliability in emergencies, with battery back up power at all facilities and generators installed at all switching facilities and many cell site locations. These preparations have proved critical during and after storms. In the aftermath of even the most devastating weather, the Verizon Wireless network in Georgia has remained strong while many other wireless communication networks struggled to serve emergency response officials and residents.

Additional Verizon Wireless preparation for severe weather events includes:

* The company has developed and practiced a comprehensive emergency response plan, including preparing emergency command centers in the case of a storm or crisis.
* The company's 3G EV-DO wireless broadband network and 4G LTE networks allows the most advanced wireless services (downloads, location-based applications, video messaging, etc.) for usage by residents and emergency agencies.
* Verizon Wireless is fully prepared to set up Wireless Emergency Communication Centers* (WECCs) to serve residents and rescue agencies in the area(s) in the greatest need.
* The company also has a fleet of Cells on Wheels (COWS) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on trailers (GOaTS) that can be rolled into hard-hit locations.
* Verizon Wireless pre-arranges fuel delivery to mobile units and generators to keep the network operating at full strength even if power is lost for an extended period of time.
* Installation of advanced in-building systems to boost wireless coverage and services at hospitals, government and emergency facilities, high-traffic public venues and other locations throughout Georgia.
* Verizon Wireless has a Communications Store on wheels* ready to roll. The 35-foot trailer allows Verizon Wireless to maintain retail operations in areas when company stores are not able to open or when retail services are needed in areas where natural disaster strikes, enabling customers to purchase the wireless phones and accessories they need.

"We work hard to ensure our customers and Georgia's emergency personnel can use their phones when and where they need it. We prepare our network all year long, through extensive investments, to be ready for storms and other emergencies," said Jeff Mango, region president for Verizon Wireless Georgia/Alabama.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Electric Utilities in Georgia Increase Reward for Identification of Copper Thieves

/PRNewswire/ -- In the wake of increased copper thefts, Georgia's electric utilities are offering up to $3,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the theft of copper and other metals from their property.

Copper thefts from substations, utility poles and lines continue to be a growing problem and public safety issue. The thefts threaten the reliability of the electric system and could cause power outages in some cases. In addition, damaged lines pose a danger of electrocution to anyone in the area, including utility workers.

These crimes affect many businesses throughout the state and their ability to provide essential services. Utilities are aggressively working with law enforcement agencies and scrap recyclers to apprehend the perpetrators. This increased reward is one tool to encourage the public's assistance.

Details such as a tag number, a physical description of a person or a car could be especially helpful. Anyone who observes suspicious activity around an electric substation or other utility facility is asked to contact the statewide copper theft hotline at 1-877-732-8717. If a theft is in progress, the witness should notify 911 first, then call the hotline.

In February 2009 utilities began offering $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone associated with copper thefts. Officials hope the increased reward will encourage members of the public to come forward with valuable information.

Up to $3,000 will be paid to anyone who furnishes information that leads directly to the arrest and conviction of someone involved in metals theft from a utility property in Georgia.

The reward is being offered by Dalton Utilities, Electric Cities of Georgia, 42 electric membership cooperatives (EMCs), Georgia EMC, Georgia Power, Georgia Transmission Corp. and Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

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