Charting the future of public relations
Team Pacificare: Partners Fighting Diabetes
Paul Holmes
Holmes Report

Team Pacificare: Partners Fighting Diabetes

Recognizing the significant health ramifications associated with diabetes, the non-profit PacifiCare Foundation funded a $1.5 million program with the American Diabetes Association (ADA), embarking on a grassroots partnership that includes public educatio

Paul Holmes


PacifiCare Health Systems (PacifiCare), one of the nation’s leading health plans, has a corporate commitment to helping its members and communities better manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.  Recognizing the significant health ramifications associated with diabetes, the non-profit PacifiCare Foundation funded a $1.5 million program with the American Diabetes Association (ADA), embarking on a grassroots partnership that includes public education, community outreach and clinical research.

Diabetes affects nearly 16 million Americans and approximately four percent of PacifiCare/Secure Horizon members. It is one of the most costly health problems in America, with health care, treatment and lost productivity expenses running nearly $100 billion annually. Typically referred to as a silent killer, diabetes has a devastating affect on an individual’s health, as most people are not aware they have the disease until one of its life-threatening complications, such as kidney disease, nerve disease, heart disease or stroke, emerge.  Recently, the Centers for Disease control announced a six percent increase in American adult-onset of diabetes, caused in large part by lifestyle choices and a lack of public education about disease risks and prevention.

The PacifiCare-ADA partnership (Team PacifiCare), is unique in that it provides both funding and community relations outreach efforts to strengthen the awareness of diabetes.  Although grassroots activities are targeted in seven western states (AZ, CA, CO, NV, OR, TX, WA), the project has national implications as consumers gain a greater understanding of diabetes and its risk factors.  


In a highly charged environment, PacifiCare wanted to promote its commitment to fighting diabetes and its partnership with the ADA in local communities. PacifiCare turned to Fischer & Partners (F&P) to create awareness of the partnership and diabetes prevention during this critical time frame. The overall budget for this project was $375,000 (including fee, out-of-pocket and vendor costs).  The project was a team effort, staffed by Fischer & Partners at all levels of responsibility, including senior vice president, vice president, account supervisor, account executive, associate account executive and an account administrator.


Give a “face” to the American Diabetes Association/PacifiCare partnership that enhances awareness of PacifiCare’s commitment to the fight against diabetes in the media and in communities served by the health plan.

Build affinity for PacifiCare among key stakeholders, including physicians, hospitals, employees and members, as well as elected officials.

Position PacifiCare as a valued and trusted healthcare resource, helping enhance the image of managed healthcare plans.

Provide opportunities for employee involvement, helping spur donations to the PacifiCare Foundation.

Increase awareness of diabetes risk factors, warning signs and treatment options among consumers, physicians, and the media to improve patient care.

Create visibility for the PacifiCare/American Diabetes Association partnership, extending the ADA's ability to implement the projects funded by the PacifiCare Foundation and broaden its diabetes education and support efforts.


Research from PacifiCare and the American Diabetes Association revealed that public education and direct outreach were keys to advancing awareness about diabetes and helping consumers learn how to prevent and/or manage this disease.  Based on these findings, Fischer & Partners created “Team PacifiCare: An Olympic Effort to Fight Diabetes,” a multi-faceted, community relations campaign that educates communities and the media about diabetes, its risks and warning signs and favorably position PacifiCare with key constituencies in a challenging environment.  


Leveraging existing ADA activities and creating additional programs, Team PacifiCare began to put a “face” to the partnership by stimulating PacifiCare employee participation in various grassroots efforts. 

Grassroots Campaign 

Tour de Cure/Summit to Surf: PacifiCare sponsored four ADA Tour de Cure bicycle fundraising events, raising more than $440,000 for local ADA chapters and garnering media exposure for Team PacifiCare. PacifiCare employees played a significant role at the events, helping create a positive image for PacifiCare in local communities.   In all, more than 50 employees in two states, including a PacifiCare-sponsored senior team, rode in and/or volunteered at the races. There were 18 media outlets that covered PacifiCare’s participation in the Tour de Cure.

American Diabetes Month-Diabetes Expos:  In November, Team PacifiCare worked with the ADA to add a new spin to their traditional American Diabetes Month activities, launching a series of Diabetes Expos in senior centers and recreation cites across seven states.  Each November, the American Diabetes Association uses Diabetes Awareness Month to outreach to those consumers already diagnosed with diabetes. PacifiCare helped to reach a new audience by applying its disease management and prevention expertise to alert those at-risk for the disease.  The diabetes health expos were free and open to the general public, and offered health screenings, literature, and diabetes-friendly recipe cards.  PacifiCare employees volunteered time to staff booths and host the Expos.

“Holiday Meals for Everyone”: To further extend awareness of the Team PacifiCare to employees, F&P created an employee recipe contest called “Holiday Meals from PacifiCare.”  The free recipe cards (16 in all) featured healthy, diabetes-friendly recipes culled from PacifiCare employees, and were disseminated at community events and on the ADA and PacifiCare web sites.  To drive traffic to these sites, PacifiCare developed weekly tips to help persons with diabetes and their loved-ones develop healthier eating habits – an important factor in disease management.  In addition to the Web sites, the Team PacifiCare health tips ran in the ADA’s newsletter, Diabetes E-News Now, and reaching more than one million readers over a six-week period.  

Media Relations

To provide ongoing education and support community relations efforts, F&P conducted ongoing media relations efforts, including:

Corporate Philanthropy: A targeted media pitch helped to further position Team PacifiCare and demonstrated the importance of strategic corporate philanthropy and its impact on the health of local communities.  Results included a front-page profile of Bill Wood, president of the PacifiCare Foundation, in the Orange County Register, that ran on a day of negative news coverage about PacifiCare. 

Print & Radio Mat Column: A syndicated newspaper and radio release, designed to educate the public about diabetes, was distributed just after the CDC announced new figures on the rise of diabetes in young adults. Our mat column ran in more than 465 newspapers, for a readership of more than 25,843,728.  In addition, the radio mat release aired on more than 208 times with an audience of 7,101,336.

Diabetes Research Grant: Reinforcing its clinical research component, PacifiCare promoted its diabetes research grant and public education partnership at the ADA’s national Scientific Session. Among the 15 media outlets that covered the partnership were USA Today, CNNfn, Reuters Health Online and Diabetes Interview.

The Holiday’s Aren’t So Sweet Tips Release: Recognizing the importance of community education, particularly during the holidays, F&P developed a tips column to help people better manage their diabetes during the stressful holiday period.  Sent to more than 40 papers and radio stations, the story was picked-up by AP and disseminated to approximately community media outlets throughout the country.  In all, this tips column provided critical health education to more than 56,223,100 readers. 


Efforts helped to offset unfavorable media coverage about PacifiCare and the health plan industry, fostering a growing awareness of the value of PacifiCare and building a base of goodwill among key constituencies and the media.  In addition, media relations and community outreach efforts served to educate consumers about diabetes and its warning signs.  

Highlights include: 

Media results for the entire program yielded more than 60 million impressions (readers).  Approximately 75 percent of the media impressions specifically mentioned PacifiCare’s commitment to fighting diabetes.  Examples of media coverage included:  Yahoo, The Orange County Register, Reuters Health, CNNfn, The Arlington (TX) News, The Los Angeles Times, The Lake Oswego (OR) News, AP, The Las Vegas Business Times and USA Today.

Awareness of diabetes, its risks, warning signs and disease management increased in local communities and the media.  For instance, the syndicated mat column offering consumes suggestions to identify and manage their diabetes reached more than 500,000 readers while educational material was directly disseminated to more than 30,000 people via grassroots activities in three states.

The program began favorably position PacifiCare with key stakeholders such as employees, community leaders, elected officials, physicians and the news media. The partnership was featured in both the ADA the PacifiCare Foundation annual reports – sent to more than 15,000 individuals.

Team PacifiCare began to offer a different and positive perspective on the nature of a health maintenance organization.

Synergies between local community organizations, regional PacifiCare staff and local ADA chapters were initiated, resulting in four PacifiCare employees joining local ADA boards in four of seven target regions

Team PacifiCare helped to raise more than $440,000 for local ADA chapters through Tour de Cure and Summit to Surf cycling events.

Drove traffic to the PacifiCare and ADA Web sites by posting “Holiday Meals From PacifiCare” winning recipes.
Reached more than one million healthcare professional and consumers over a six-week period with our weekly tips and holiday recipes, which ran on the ADA’s Diabetes E-News Now newsletter and Web site.

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