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CIGNA CITES NEED TO IMPROVE WOMEN'S HEALTH DURING PREGNANCY

 NEW YORK, Dec. 1 ~PRNewswire~ -- CIGNA Companies today cited a need to improve women's health during pregnancy by motivating women to move away from risky behaviors and seek prenatal care. A CIGNA self-awareness questionnaire, "Healthy Mothers, Healthy Beginnings," released today, provides women with the framework to share their concerns with their healthcare providers and find ways of making positive behavior changes regarding pregnancy.
 The questionnaire was developed by the Center for Health Communication at the Harvard School of Public Health with a grant from CIGNA.
 There are great social costs associated with poor birth outcomes, according to G. Robert O'Brien, executive vice president of CIGNA Corporation. "This is a problem that extends beyond the inner city," Mr. O'Brien said. "In a national sampling of employees with traditional insurance, CIGNA found one out of 22 pregnancies resulted in a newborn with severe health problems," he said. "Because the cost to employers of these poor birth outcomes was $5.6 billion, we believe employers are looking for tools to inspire behavioral change among women with prenatal care coverage," Mr. O'Brien said.
 According to Mr. O'Brien, CIGNA plans to repackage this questionnaire in a new self-help booklet for women and release it to employees and their dependents covered by CIGNA insurance. A unique part of the new booklet will be a self-awareness component. It will permit women to appraise their own lifestyles to learn which behavior changes will increase their likelihood of healthy pregnancies. "We need to encourage women to seek further information and services to change those behaviors," Mr. O'Brien said.
 "The Center for Health Communication recognizes a key to improving infant health is through improving the health of women throughout life," said Dr. Lilian Cheung of the Center for Health Communication. "Pregnancy is a window of opportunity, when women are focused on their own health and their baby's well-being. The questionnaire gives women and those they rely on, including significant others and healthcare providers, an avenue to help women improve their health during pregnancy."
 The questionnaire contains information about diet and nutrition; work and exercise; environmental concerns; smoking, alcohol and drugs; stress and violence; and general health and well-being. It also contains resource hotlines for information about topics such as breast feeding, AIDS and smoking.
 Mr. O'Brien acknowledged that eliminating financial barriers to care is important, and called on government to increase access to comprehensive prenatal care for all women, not just those covered by public~private insurance. "Yet, psychosocial and attitudinal barriers, such as a feeling of helplessness or ambivalence about pregnancy, also inhibit women with access," Mr. O'Brien said.
 "This year CIGNA has challenged employers, physicians, government and the public to develop supportive attitudes and programs for pregnant women the will help them overcome barriers to maintain their health," said Mr. O'Brien.
 Copies of the "Healthy Mothers, Healthy Beginnings" report are available by calling 203-726-8340.
 The CIGNA Employee Benefits Companies are one of the largest group health insurance carriers in the U.S. The companies provide coverage to more than 15 million health care consumers, including 2 million members of CIGNA Healthplan, the largest investor-owned HMO in the nation.
 The Harvard Center for Health Communication was founded and directed by Jay A. Winsten, Ph.D., associate dean for public and community affairs, Harvard School of Public Health. The center's mission is to mobilize the immense power of mass communication to improve health. The first center of its kind in an academic setting, it has forged a unique set of partnerships with the broadcast, advertising, news and entertainment industries. The center's best-known activity is promotion of the "designated driver" as a strategy for reducing alcohol-related traffic crashes. Other center activities include a fellowship for health journalists, and projects testing strategies to prevent or curb teenage alcohol use, prevent domestic violence, and promote nutrition and fitness among children and youth.
 -0- 12~1~92
 ~CONTACT: Amy DeMarco of CIGNA Companies, 203-726-4450, or Terri Mendoza of the Center for Health Communication, Harvard School of Public Health, 617-432-4488~


CO: CIGNA Companies ST: Connecticut IN: INS SU:

TS-PS -- NY011 -- 2403 12~01~92 12:00 EST
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Date:Nov 24, 1992
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