Every business owner and resident in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, felt the impact of the August 2016 storms, whether or not their home or workplace flooded. It’s estimated that three out of every 10 homes in the Baton Rouge area had flood damage. Considering the area is home to more than 820,000 people, it’s clear the recovery will continue for some time.
It is also evident that severe weather events such as hurricanes, wildfires and blizzards have a lasting impact on health and well-being. Not long after the Baton Rouge flooding, Hurricane Matthew threatened the Caribbean and the Southeast. Those in Florida, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas experienced flooding and property damage, with more than 650,000 people without electricity days after the hurricane - and Hurricane Matthew led to more than two dozen U.S. deaths.
Along with its obvious potential to destroy homes, disrupt daily life, and - at its worst - kill, for those with the highest health care needs who are most vulnerable, severe weather can have a lasting negative impact on their well-being.
Working together: Helping healthy people recover
Humana has joined many other national and local businesses, and nonprofit organizations, to provide recovery support for Baton Rouge in the days and weeks following the flooding. Across Louisiana, Humana has nearly 500,000 medical plan members, including more than 40,000 in the Baton Rouge area. New Orleans and Baton Rouge are two of seven cities nationwide where Humana has been focused on pursuing our "Bold Goal" to improve the health of the communities we serve 20 percent by 2020.
As part of our focus on community health, Humana temporarily reassigned our Direct Marketing Services (DMS) associates, who are based in the Tampa Bay area, to call all 40,000 Humana members in the Baton Rouge area – to see if there was anything we could do to help them, such as letting them know they could get no-cost refills for prescriptions they’d lost in the floods and making sure they had all the medical equipment they needed.
“Most of the folks we talked to said they are in recovery mode and that they did not have any pressing medical needs, but they appreciated that we were calling to check on them,” said Jeff Fernandez, a VP of Humana’s national Medicare organization, who lives in New Orleans and experienced the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina. “Living in South Louisiana, citizens understand the threats we face from hurricanes and flooding, and that brings with it a certain mental toughness. However, it’s important to us to support our friends and neighbors in a time of need.”
Humana is also funding grants to local nonprofits to help those dealing with flood damage. The Humana Foundation is matching up to $25,000 in gifts from Humana associates to the American Red Cross, on top of $25,000 grants given to the Red Cross and the Capital Area United Way. And Humana’s Baton Rouge Health Advisory Board, which is working to improve the health of Baton Rouge 20 percent by 2020, donated $10,000 to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
The big picture: Ensuring a healthy planet
While we are ready to respond to severe weather, preventing these events is a greater priority. Climate change is a major cause of heat waves, droughts and other severe weather. According to the National Climate Assessment, over the past 50 years the U.S. has experienced increased and prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, heavy rains, severe floods and droughts.
In order to help prevent the negative effects of climate change, Humana takes an intentional approach to its environmental sustainability, creating and measuring corporate goals. Recycling programs, energy and emissions reduction goals, and updating building infrastructure to optimize the mechanics of facilities are some of the many ways Humana works to mitigate its environmental footprint.
“We recognize while we’re not the biggest or smallest company, our drop in the pond makes a ripple and has an impact,” said Douglas Edwards, director of Workplace Solutions for Humana. “We consume a lot of natural fuels as part of our business operations, which has an effect on the environment, climate change and severe weather. We’re doing what we can to mitigate this effect and are very intentional about environmental sustainability.”
While extreme weather events are becoming more common, there’s much we can do to prepare – and prevent – natural disasters. Hurricanes, especially those requiring evacuation, pose a higher health risk to seniors, those with mobility issues and chronic health conditions. That’s why Humana focuses on helping those groups of people in the Gulf Coast region prepare for hurricane season: Each year, we run a public awareness campaign to help residents protect their health in the event of a hurricane.
The recovery in Baton Rouge will be ongoing, as will efforts to improve the community’s health and minimize the effects of severe weather across the country. All of this activity in Louisiana – and throughout the Gulf Coast and Southeast regions – illustrates how organizations large and small can work together to help their communities deal with the effects of extreme weather.