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Blue Cross Blue Shield Invests $363 Million in Community Health Initiatives

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies collectively devoted more than $363 million to support community health initiatives in 2013, according to a new report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

The sixth annual Investing in America’s Health report demonstrates the 37 BCBS companies’ efforts to promote healthier communities nationwide. One in three Americans rely on these companies for access to healthcare which, according to the report, puts them in a good position to create and maintain lasting partnerships with doctors, hospitals, schools and other organizations to help create stronger, healthier communities.

The report says BCBS companies help deliver better quality and more affordable care by working alongside local physicians and hospitals. They provide leadership and help fund local programs that improve the health and wellness of more than 105 million members and their communities.

BCBS companies are working to address a predicted shortage of tens of thousands of medical professionals by 2025, the report says. In an effort to ensure Americans have access to physicians, nurses, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, the companies are investing in education and development programs for America’s health care workforce. They also support local clinics that provide services in underserved areas.

Today, BCBS companies are leading a shift toward care delivery programs that provide incentives for better health outcomes for patients while reducing costly duplication and waste in care delivery, according to the report. About one in five claim dollars are now spent in these new models, with more than 24 million BCBS members in 350 locally tailored programs that reward doctors for better coordinated care and improved health outcomes.

BCBS companies also provide a variety of resources to organizations, schools, families and individuals to help create a healthier living environment. In collaboration with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), BCBS companies in 10 cities hosted more than 72,000 people at 48 events in 2013. These events gave communities a place to play by closing roads to traffic and opening them up for families to jump, run and stay active.

Even those outside of the health care sector are working on improving access to quality care. In July, CVS Caremark partnered with IBM to commence a $1.5 million commitment to support the use of innovative technology in community health centers to increase patient engagement and to improve patient care and outcomes. The "Technology Solutions for Smarter Health" grants will be awarded to community health centers nationwide that are in need of advanced technology that will help people on their path to better health. The grants will enhance technology infrastructure currently in place to help centers easily communicate and share health information with patients through secure electronic messaging.

Health care should go beyond healing people and also strive to heal the planet, according to Kaiser Permanente. Though hospitals deliver life-saving care to individuals, their substantial environmental footprint can be detrimental to environmental and community health. The health care provider says the healthcare sector has an obligation to reduce its environmental impact and usher in a new industry standard for health care delivery — one that embraces environmental stewardship.

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