Tennessee Blues Enlists Pastors to Help Reduce Healthcare Disparities

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , December 4, 2013

Although Freeman says focusing on healthcare disparities is simply "the right thing to do" and that the Lifting Our Members program has plenty of C-suite support at BCBSTN, she is also keenly aware that she needs to make a business case for the program and its budget. Success of the initial focus on childhood immunizations will be measured in several ways. Improvement in HEDIS measures related to childhood and adolescent immunizations is critical, says Freeman, because "for managed care organizations, that really is the only way we can get an apples-to-apples comparison across health plans on how we're doing." She says they will look at the HEDIS measures across all lines of business to see if there is an impact. Immunization levels among ZIP codes where the tool box is used will be compared to those where it is not used.

The goal is to get the tool boxes in 1,000 churches and to expand the effort to behavioral health and chemical dependency next, and then women's health, including maternity.

Freeman describes as "staggering" the rate of behavioral health and chemical dependency problems among minorities in the state, with 53% of non-Hispanic whites, 46% of African-Americans, and 31% of Hispanics having a problem. "If you think about it, those are just the people who are accessing the healthcare system. In every community there are all kinds of stigmas associated with behavioral health. We want to tackle that next to encourage seeking help and getting counseling and treatment."

Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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