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Teachers, Physicians to Play Unique Role in Youth Heart Health Initiative
WellPoint Foundation, American Heart Association Western States Affiliate Program Draws on Expertise of Two 'Frontline' Groups

THOUSAND OAKS, CA, May. 25, 2004 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) -- The WellPoint Foundation, the charitable giving arm of WellPoint Health Networks Inc. (NYSE: WLP), today announced a collaboration with the American Heart Association Western States Affiliate to unite physicians and teachers in the development of heart-healthy educational resources for families. The program will combine the reach and strength of both organizations to address growing concerns about the cardiovascular health of America's youth and combat the rising rate of childhood obesity.

A study published in the April 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association concludes that obesity causes certain types of cardiovascular damage, and can be reversed by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Research further indicates that overweight youth who reduce their caloric intake and change their exercise habits experience cardiovascular improvement.

A key element of the program is the participation of both physicians and teachers -- two groups widely trusted by parents -- in the development of family-friendly educational resources to address the three areas that have the greatest impact on cardiovascular health: nutrition, physical fitness and smoking cessation. Bilingual education tools will be developed and made available nationwide for use in homes, schools and medical offices. The WellPoint Foundation has pledged a contribution of $200,000 to the American Heart Association collaboration.

"The WellPoint Foundation is tremendously proud to be working with the American Heart Association to create practical tools that leverage the expertise of physicians and teachers in improving the health and well-being of our youth," said Leonard Schaeffer, chairman of the WellPoint Foundation and chairman and chief executive officer of WellPoint.

"We are thrilled that this collaboration with the WellPoint Foundation will address heart health, which is clearly a critical issue for America's families," said Ismael Nuno, M.D., president, American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate. "Given the substantial short- and long-term benefits of healthy lifestyle education, this effort is an important milestone."

The two organizations will develop heart-healthy educational resources teachers can use in their curriculum, as well as health-related extracurricular activities in schools through the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart program.

"As teachers, we're in a unique position to inspire our youth to lead healthier lifestyles. I'm excited about the opportunity to be a part of a collaborative education effort that has the power to change lives," stated Wayne Leach, Principal, Capri Middle School, Campbell, California.

Other tools will be designed for use in doctors' offices to assist pediatricians, family physicians and other health care professionals in talking with families about keeping young hearts healthy. Physician desktop reference tools will provide quick access to scientific data.

"Coupling the expertise of physicians with the first hand knowledge of teachers in the development of education tools is an unprecedented concept. I'm looking forward to helping to develop new resources that speak to families from the perspective of those that are closest to the critical health issues impacting America's youth," stated Daniel Salinas, M.D., pediatrician and medical director, WellPoint.

The commitment between the WellPoint Foundation and the American Heart Association expands on WellPoint's national initiative to address the youth obesity epidemic, which includes a collaborative effort with the American Dietetic Association on a host of child nutrition initiatives, including the widely distributed Healthy Habits for Healthy Kids guide. Reviewed by more than 200 physicians and a national panel of registered dietitians, the guide provides parents with recommendations for healthy eating and gives health care professionals a much-needed vehicle for discussing childhood obesity with families. Nearly one million copies of the guide have been distributed nationwide. Healthy Habits for Healthy Kids is available in electronic format at no cost in English and Spanish at www.wellpoint.com and www.eatright.org.

WellPoint Foundation

The WellPoint Foundation focuses on initiatives that will make health care more accessible and affordable, improve quality of care, support the development of health-related public policy, and help establish best practices in medicine. The WellPoint Foundation, which was established 2001, is one of the largest corporate foundations in the nation with assets exceeding $135 million. The Foundation focuses on developing social investment programs and partnering with nonprofit public charities whose projects and programs closely align with WellPoint's health care priorities.

WellPoint

WellPoint Health Networks Inc. (NYSE: WLP) serves the health care needs of more than 15.3 million medical members and approximately 46 million specialty members nationwide through Blue Cross of California, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin, HealthLink and UNICARE. Visit WellPoint on the Web at www.wellpoint.com. Blue Cross of California, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

American Heart Association

Since 1924 the American Heart Association has helped protect people of all ages and ethnicities from the ravages of heart disease and stroke. These diseases, the nation's No. 1 and No. 3 killers, claim more than 930,000 American lives a year. The Association invested more than $348 million in fiscal year 2002-03 for research, professional and public education, and advocacy so people across America can live stronger, longer lives.

Media Contacts:
Heather Rim
WellPoint
(805) 557-6749
Gina Esparza
American Heart Association
(213) 291-7023
Cal Lockett
WellPoint Foundation
Executive Director
(805) 557-6888

SOURCE: WellPoint


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