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Wellmark, Partnership plan forum to address ‘disturbing trends’ in millennials’ health


Millennials’ health status nationally is headed in the wrong direction, a trend that has prompted Iowa’s largest health insurer and the Greater Des Moines Partnership to take action to address the issue. 

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Partnership on Monday announced they will hold a forum on July 18 focused on the health of millennials. According to a report released in April by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, U.S. millennials are less healthy than their Gen X counterparts were at the same age. Millennials face a higher prevalence of significant health conditions than the previous generation and are less likely to seek preventive care. 

The forum will serve as a listening session centered on the declining health of millennials and will include a closer look at the Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Health of America Report: The Health of Millennials.

“The report discusses some disturbing trends for millennials, including the increased prevalence of several significant health conditions and less use of preventive care as compared to Generation X,” said Cory Harris, Wellmark’s chief operating officer. “This forum will bring together millennials, health care providers, business and community leaders, patient advocates, and health plans to discuss solutions that improve millennials’ health, both now and for the rest of their lives.”

The information gathered at this invitation-only event will be combined with other listening sessions being held across the country. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association will debut the information and proposed initiatives to improve millennial health at a national Health of America conference in November. 

According to the report, one-third of millennials have health conditions that reduce their quality of life and life expectancy. However, Wellmark’s millennial population is healthier than the national average based on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. 

Iowa’s score is 95.1 and South Dakota’s score is 95.4, compared with the national average of 93.8 out of 100. These findings are based on a study of millennials who were between the ages of 34 and 36 in 2017 and Gen Xers who were 34 to 36 in 2014. 

“Even though Wellmark’s millennial members are healthier than the national average, we cannot ignore this national trend,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark’s chief health officer. “Millennials are forecasted to represent half of the workforce by 2020. Unfortunately, the multiple health conditions this generation is plagued with could keep them from living their best life possible also impacting productivity levels, absenteeism and health care costs for the businesses that employ them.”

The biggest health differences between the two generations were the higher impact of physical conditions driven by increased cardiovascular and endocrine conditions, including diabetes. The study also found that millennial women are 20 percent less healthy than their male counterparts, specifically driven by cases of major depression, type II diabetes and endocrine conditions. 

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