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Health Care Service Corporation is teaming up with the National Fitness Campaign through its Healthy Cities program to increase access to physical exercise by bringing free, outdoor Fitness Courts to communities in Illinois and Texas. The move is a bid to reduce barriers to physical and mental health.
The Fitness Courts are specially designed areas with simple exercise equipment that encourage people to be more active.
HCSC is contributing $850,000 in grants to help fund 35 new Fitness Courts across the two states. The sites will begin construction as early as this summer, with the goal of being available for use later in the fall.
HCSC is the parent company of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
The push to create the Fitness Courts is centered around the philosophy that regular physical activity is an efficient way to reduce the impacts of many chronic illnesses, as well as improve mental health and lower a patient’s overall healthcare costs.
The Fitness Courts will be available to all residents of all ages and ability levels, Dr. Monica Berner, chief clinical officer, HCSC, said in a statement.
NFC founder Mitch Menaged said the network of Fitness Courts is expected to grow across multiple states.
“”This program will deliver tremendous resources to contribute to the important mission of improving health outcomes,” he said.
NFC’s outdoor Fitness Courts are built to deliver seven-minute bodyweight workouts. NFC also collaborates with partners to host workout classes in person in addition to providing free digital classes through the Fitness Court app. The Fitness Courts will be constructed in public areas that are easily accessed by residents.
Municipalities, schools and other organizations in Illinois and Texas can apply for grant funding through NFC to assist in constructing a Fitness Court. NFC works with grant recipients to assist in planning, funding and launching their court.
THE LARGER TREND
In 2020, HSCA eliminated about 400 middle management jobs to “best serve our customers now and into the future of the rapidly changing healthcare landscape,” spokesman Greg Thompson said in a statement at the time.
HCSC employs about 24,000 people across five states: Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
According to Thompson, the company is “rebalancing our resources to meet the diverse needs of our customers, provider partners and other stakeholders.” While declining to provide a detailed breakdown of where the job cuts will occur, Thompson said the positions are being eliminated “to reduce organizational redundancy and improve decision making efficiency.”
That same year, HCSC planned to add about 1,000 new jobs, primarily in customer and provider service, technology and digital capabilities.
With upwards of 8.5 million members, Blue Cross Blue Shield is the dominant health insurer of Illinois.