MEMPHIS, Tenn. ≠-- Volunteer State Health Plan and the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation presented Gov. Phil Bredesen with the final installment of their $900,000 commitment to the Books From Birth Foundation today in Memphis. The event was held at the College Park Renaissance Center - Head Start, with BlueCross CEO Vicky Gregg on hand to make the presentation.†

Volunteer State Health Plan and the Health Foundation made a commitment two years ago to support the Books From Birth program and wanted to fulfill their commitment before Gov. Bredesen leaves office in January.

According to Gregg, reading skills share an important tie-in to health. "Studies have shown that increasing education typically lowers a personís risk for illness and disease," Gregg said. "Health literacy, too, is critical to achieve. Because patients who struggle to read find it difficult to work their way through the health care system. The result is often a negative effect on the patientís overall health."

The mission of Books From Birth is to manage the ongoing, statewide implementation of Dolly Partonís Imagination Library. Founded in 2004 , the Imagination Library assists all Tennessee preschool children in developing their vocabulary, school readiness, and love of learning and reading by ensuring that free, high quality, age-appropriate books are mailed once a month directly to their homes, from birth until age five, regardless of income.

In West Tennessee, more than 1.4 million books have been distributed to children in the program. Currently, nearly 57 percent of Tennessee children throughout all 95 counties are enrolled in the program. Approximately 171,000 Tennessee 5-year-olds have already "graduated" from the Imagination Library, and the statewide program has actually served more than 347,570 children since the creation of the Governorís Books from Birth Foundation in 2004.

"We are very excited about the final installment toward this wonderful program," Bredesen said. "This has truly been one of the stateís most rewarding partnerships, because of the children that we have been able to reach through partners like Volunteer State Health Plan and the BlueCross BlueShield Health Foundation as well as the many parents who have signed up to participate."

Todayís contribution will go through the GBBF directly to Shelby County Books from Birth, the largest single county affiliate of Dolly Partonís Imagination Library in the world. The funds will stay in Shelby County and be used to provide free books to children in this area.

For more information on the Governorís Books from Birth Foundation, please visit†

About Tennessee Health Foundation, Inc.
The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation, Inc. (THF) was established in December, 2003 as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation organized to promote the philanthropic mission of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. THF awards grants focused on high-impact initiatives across the state, which promote healthy lifestyle choices and help control health care costs for all Tennessee residents. Working with civic and economic partners, THF is dedicated to the support of research, innovative programs and creative approaches to improve the health and quality of life of Tennesseans for generations to come.

About Volunteer State Health Plan (VSHP)
Volunteer State Health Plan is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Founded in 1993, the Chattanooga-based company focuses on managing care and providing quality health care products, services, and information for government programs. VSHP currently serves approximately 500,000 members.†