Anthem diabetes pilot targets Hispanic, African American populations

Anthem Blue Cross has been recognized for a diabetes pilot designed to improve access to high quality, safe and affordable healthcare for Hispanics and African Americans, both of which have high incidence rates of contracting the disease.

Anthem's health equities pilot was recently recognized with a Best of Blue Clinical Distinction Award, proferred by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy. The awards highlight Blue Cross Blue Shield plans around the nation that demonstrate innovation, efficiency and potential for replication.

The randomized, controlled pilot, conducted in association with Anthem's Georgia affiliate, studied more than 4,000 African American and Hispanic members in California and Georgia. Anthem plans to launch the program in other regions.

"We know that ethnically diverse populations experience a higher prevalence of certain diseases and worse quality of care than whites regardless of the type of insurance they have or whether they have insurance at all," said Terri Amano, senior product manager for Anthem's Programs in Clinical Excellence. "With this pilot, our goal was to find ways to provide useful and relevant information tailored to the cultures of our Hispanic and African American members. This information helps them better control their diabetes and improve their quality of life."

According to The Office of Minority Health, part of the Department of Health & Human Services, Mexican Americans are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician. They have higher rates of end-stage renal disease, which can be caused by diabetes, and are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. African Americans are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and are 2.3 times more likely to die from the disease as non-Hispanic whites.

The pilot focused on creative and culturally appropriate ways to communicate with members – including providing information on how members could reach out to local churches to share these messages with others and providing bilingual Spanish print fotonovelas, a photographic comic strip version of a soap opera. The pilot also provided diabetes educational materials that included ways to substitute ingredients in favorite ethnic meals to make them healthier.

"Even over the short term, we saw small but promising increases in disease management engagement among African American and Hispanic members," Amano said. "We see this pilot as an important first step in helping our diverse members make important changes to their health and helping to bridge the cultural care gaps that exist today."

"Harvard is pleased to recognize Anthem Blue Cross for developing a program that sets such high standards for its effectiveness in improving patient care," said Barbara J. McNeil, PhD, head of the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. "The Blues' focus on quality, safety and access plays a critical role in improving the healthcare delivery system and enhancing quality and value for consumers."

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