In this fourth and final part of our four-blog series on Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) and measures taken by leading insurers to rid the country of health disparities, we focus on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies.
Blue Shield of California Eyes Healthiest State
Blue Shield of California has made a $40-million contribution to the Blue Shield of California Foundation to support its efforts to end domestic violence and make California the healthiest state. The nonprofit health plan has contributed more than $150 million to its foundation over the past four years. Through their jointly-operated Community Resource Centers, Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan and L.A. Care Health Plan are rolling out a series of drive-through and walk-up food pantry events across Los Angeles County in response to the growing food insecurity burdening nearly every community. The food distribution events, which started February 20, 2021, and run throughout the year, are free and open to everyone. It has also introduced a new series of five guides about youth mental health under the BlueSky program through a collaboration with the Child Mind Institute. The collection covers a wide range of youth mental health issues, including trauma, racism, depression, LGBTQ+ issues, and anxiety.
BCBS Illinois Focuses on Fundings
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois announced that an expanded pool of 175 non-profit organizations will each be receiving $20,000 in grants to address crucial needs for people across the state as a result of COVID-19. Last month, BCBSIL opened applications for this second round of quick-release funding as part of its COVID-19 Community Collaboration Fund. The grant program is aimed at supporting community-based organizations doing work in five focus areas – access to care, hunger, shelter and behavioral health care, and COVID-19 health education and vaccine access. The company is also providing new resources to help improve the health outcomes of pregnant women and their infants in underserved communities across Illinois. BCBSIL is announcing more than $350,000 in grant funding to six community-based organizations working to improve maternal health outcomes on Chicago’s South and West Side neighborhoods.
BCBS Louisiana Meets SDoH Goals
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation has granted more than $4 million to 95 nonprofits across the state working to meet the needs of communities in response to COVID-19 since mid-March. Efforts supported through Foundation grant funding include providing food to kids, financially insecure families, and seniors; supporting healthcare needs, including securing critical supplies for providers, connecting individuals to care and mental health resources; funding direct economic support, housing assistance, and keeping families financially stable; sustaining essential services disproportionately affected by stay-at-home orders, such as sober housing, services for sexual assault victims, and a limited scope of education-related services; and supporting regional groups organizing disaster response in communities across Louisiana, and supporting nonprofits through community relief funds operated by local community foundations.
BCBS Massachusetts Supports Teachers, Students
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is providing an additional $400,000 in grants to nonprofits and regional funds across Massachusetts to support communities of color most impacted by COVID-19, address the ongoing food insecurity crisis, and provide support to teachers and students to aid in the safe reopening of schools. These recent donations bring Blue Cross’ total value of community COVID-19 support to $10.6 million. $270,000 will be distributed as part of Blue Cross’ COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants. This second round of grants is awarding $10,000 to 27 organizations serving communities of color most impacted by COVID-19. The company is also contributing $125,000 to support teachers and students during school re-openings and remote learning.
BCBS Michigan’s School-based Wellness Steps
Michigan K-12 schools have been invited to apply for Building Healthy Communities, a public-private initiative supported by BCBS of Michigan and designed to address mental health and well-being and prevent childhood obesity through school-based wellness programming along with raising attention to issues that have emerged due to the pandemic. Building Healthy Communities is an evidence-based, comprehensive, school-wide initiative that supports children’s health by providing students, teachers and administrators with tools and resources to improve the health of students and staff while creating a healthier school environment. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation donated $300,000 to six community-based nonprofits to support permanent house initiatives that can help improve racial and economic health equity.
BCBS Minnesota Studies Dietary Support
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Blue Plus (Blue Plus) have announced a new program with Second Harvest Heartland and Project Well to study the impact of comprehensive dietary support on maternal and infant health outcomes.The research project will recruit pregnant Black and Indigenous Blue Plus members with indicators linked to high-risk pregnancy to participate and receive up to seven months of nutrition benefits and services. The program will also take into consideration the nutritional needs of the whole household, including other children. They also donated $400,000 to six organizations to help with housing stability initiatives.
BCBS North Carolina Addresses Childhood Hunger
The company and Charlotte Motor Speedway, along with Speedway Children’s Charities, are teaming up to address childhood hunger in the Charlotte area with its “Drive Out Hunger” initiative. Through a series of events, the organizations will work together to drive out childhood hunger by encouraging both monetary and non-perishable food donations. A “Drive Out Hunger” campaign branded Pace Car will make its debut during the Coca Cola 600 race weekend and remain at the speedway for races and events throughout the year. It has also teamed up with the athletic departments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Duke University to deliver over 2,000 meals to those in need in the Triangle area.
BCBS Texas Tackles Food Insecurity
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas has joined forces with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, to address the food insecurity crisis magnified across the nation and Texas by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through its Healthy Kids, Healthy Families program, BCBSTX awarded $507,000 in nutrition grants to 16-member food banks that serve approximately 151 counties in Texas. The food banks will have the option to use funds for the purchase of nutritious and culturally appropriate foods for the communities they serve, as well as develop nutrition policies that address food insecurity, intercultural competence in nutrition, and structural health inequities.
Conclusion: Health disparities have been around for ages, which would not cease to exist overnight. But a beginning made in the past to give every person a fair opportunity to live a healthy life gained the much-needed momentum over the last one year. Health insurance providers have been doing their bit to achieve health equity but this may not be enough. To address the root socioeconomic and sociopolitical causes of poor health and health disparities, a wider participation of all stakeholders is needed.