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BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF OHIO ANNOUNCES FOUR-CITY PROGRAM TO HELP ELDERLY PREVENT WINTER ILLNESS AND INJURY

 BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF OHIO ANNOUNCES FOUR-CITY PROGRAM
 TO HELP ELDERLY PREVENT WINTER ILLNESS AND INJURY
 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio (BCBSO) will begin a four-city effort Jan. 29 to help thousands of needy senior citizens in Northern Ohio stay warm and protect themselves against winter illness and injury.
 Mayor Michael R. White and BCBSO Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, John Burry, Jr., will announce the program, called "Keep the Lid On," at a noon news conference at the Wilson Tower Golden Age Center, East 55 and Chester Avenue. The effort provides thousands of seniors wih winter hats and health tip brochures to explain how to avoid hypothermia and learn about other winter-related health concerns.
 The effort will begin in Youngstown on Jan. 29 at the Multipurpose Senior Center; in Akron on Feb. 7 at the Area Agency on Aging; and in Toledo on Feb. 10 at the West Toledo Senior Center.
 Hypothermia is the drop in internal body temperature. If left unchecked, hypothermia can lead to coma or even death.
 "This winter's recent cold blast intensifies the need to tell seniors how to prevent winter illness and injury," said Burry. "Because up to 70 percent of body heat can escape through the scalp, something as simple as wearing a hat can help prevent a life-threatening occurrance.
 "Seniors need to know they are among the most susceptible to hypothermia, and it can happen even inside their own homes," Burry added. "It's tragic when we hear that because someone didn't take precautions, they were hurt or even killed by the cold. Even one death is too many. But it's sad to say 17 people died of hypothermia last year in Ohio. Quite likely most of them could have been saved if they knew how to keep their body temperature up."
 In Cleveland, the "Keep the Lid On" effort is underway in conjunction with the Cleveland Department of Aging, White said.
 "We are happy to be coordinating the hat distribution through our Department of Aging," White said. "Representatives from 75 senior centers in Cleveland have been invited today to receive quantities of hats for the seniors who visit their centers. They will be taking hats with them and making sure that everyone who frequents their centers or meal sites receives a hat.
 "In addition, we've designated four of those centers, as well as the Department of Aging, to serve as distribution sites so other seniors can stop by and pick up hats, too. And, our Outreach Workers will make every effort to deliver hats to the needy homebound they serve in the city."
 White added, "The Department of Aging began the 'Keep the Lid On' program in 1983, under the direction of the late Anna Brown, who headed the department and was instrumental in establishing the BCBSO Volunteer Senior Advisory Councils. We are proud that, in her spirit, the program is being expanded to reach seniors throughout Northern Ohio."
 This year, BCBSO and its Senior Advisory Councils are sponsoring the program in Northern Ohio. Hats and literature also will be available to seniors in Toledo, Akron and Youngstown, in addition to Cleveland, with the help of the Area Agency on Aging offices in those cities.
 Seniors who live within central cities are being targeted to receive winter hats because national trends indicate that the neediest elderly live within city limits.
 Cleveland mirrors that national trend: 84 percent of the poor elderly in Northeast Ohio live within the city of Cleveland, according to the Department of Aging.
 With age, seniors lose their ability to sense accurately how truly cold they are becoming in their homes or how the cold outdoors is affecting them. Especially if sedentary for long periods, seniors risk hypothermia without noticing symptoms. Poor nutrition also can contribute to low body temperature.
 Once body temperatures drop excessively, muscles stiffen, and speech, thinking or judgment can become impaired. Fatigues and weakness also are common. Eventually, loss of consciousness, coma or even death can occur.
 "Hypothermia is preventable, even on the coldest winter day," Burry added. "But few seniors realize the dangers indoors especially when rooms retain the cold even when it's not sub-zero outside. That's when they need to be careful to dress properly, eat properly and wear a hat and warm up.
 "Let the Winter Olympics be your reminder -- even if watching ski racers on T.V. is the closest you come to enjoying the winter, be sure to wear your hat, indoors or out, and prevent hypothermia," Burry said.
 Seniors can receive a winter health tip brochure and a complete listing of participating senior sites where hats can be obtained in Cleveland, Akron, Toledo and Youngstown by calling, 800-475-WARM.
 CONTACT: Linda Scardilli Krecic of William Silverman and Company, 216-696-7750, for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio.
 -0- 1/27/92


CG -- CL010 -- 3709 01/27/92 11:47 EST
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Date:Jan 27, 1992
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