WSL Future of Health Event

Walmart promotes healthier eating habits

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart has launched a program to encourage healthier eating habits in partnership with Humana Vitality, a subsidiary of health insurer Humana.

Walmart has launched a program to encourage healthier eating habits in partnership with Humana Vitality, a subsidiary of health insurer Humana.

The initiative follows up on the retailer’s commitment in January 2011 to support first lady Michelle Obama’s drive to make more healthful food affordable and accessible to more ­Americans.

The initiative, called “Vitality HealthyFood” begins October 15 at all of Walmart’s 3,900-plus stores in the United States. More than 1 million members of the HumanaVitality network who shop at Walmart are eligible for savings of 5% on about 1,300 products. Fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meat and low-fat dairy as well as some packaged food products are included.

HumanaVitality members who choose to accept the company’s terms and conditions and take a health assessment will receive a “Vitality HealthyFood” card that will enable them to receive 5% savings on food items that qualify for Walmart’s “Great For You” icon. The savings are applied as credits to each member’s card within five business days for use on their next shopping trip.

According to Humana, a recent survey of its members showed that 84% would be motivated to buy more healthful food if a savings program was available. A study released in December 2011 indicates that one in four American families report skipping healthful food purchases often or always due to price.

"Americans have told us they are trying to eat better and need help making healthier food choices," says Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability for Walmart. "Our Great for You icon helps customers find those choices, and this program represents a new model for how we can make those choices even more affordable. We will continue to make affordable healthier food a priority so American families don’t have to choose between food that is good for them and food they can afford."

The Great for You icon was developed in consultation with food and nutrition experts and leading health organizations as an easy-to-use tool to help customers quickly identify more healthful food items. Food products bearing the icon have to pass a two-step nutrition criteria test. The icon is initially available in Walmart’s produce departments and will begin to appear on packaged items bearing the retailer’s Great Value and Marketside brands this fall.

The Walmart-Humana announcement followed by two days the release of a study that predicts half of the adults in the United States will be obese by 2030 unless they change their behaviors. A separate study that was conducted by Cornell University earlier this year estimated that obesity now accounts for nearly 21% of U.S. health care costs, or about $190.2 billion per year. Previous estimates gauged the cost of obesity at $85.7 billion, or 9.1% of the total health care spend.
In an interview with the Cornell Chronicle lead author and professor of policy analysis and management John Cawley pointed out that obesity raises the risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack and diabetes, and it also raises the cost of treating almost any medical condition.

"Price is an important factor in incentivizing wellness in America," says John Agwunobi, president of health and wellness for the Walmart U.S. division.

"By offering affordable, healthier foods, we will help make our customers healthier and reduce costs to our health care system as a whole. This represents preventative care in its purest form."


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