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Dr Seun Ross: BCBS Health Equity Goals Across 4 Focus Areas


Seun Ross, PhD, describes the goals Independence Blue Cross has for improving maternal health, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and behavioral health.

In an interview, Seun Ross, PhD, executive director of health equity for Independence Blue Cross, discussed the 4 focus areas of health equity described in her presentation, “Driving Health Equity in Population Health Programs,” at the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health (GPBCH) 2023 Wellness Summit.


Can you elaborate on the 4 focus areas of health equity from your presentation?

In 2021, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association laid out a national health equity strategy. What we did at Independence was to look at that national health equity strategy and analyze our data to determine if we had the same sort of problems or challenges within our membership. When we analyzed the data, we certainly recognized that we do have challenges in those 4 focus areas.

4 Focus Areas of Health Equity

  • Maternal Health
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular Conditions
  • Behavioral Health

But what we did was, in looking at that data, saying, “What is the best way? What will give us the biggest bang for our buck, as we sort of drill down?” And so for maternal health, we are focused on the reduction in severe maternal morbidity, and in doing that, recognize that focusing on hypertensive disorders of pregnancy would help us really close the gap in severe maternal morbidity.

For diabetes, when we looked at our data, we saw that we needed to help people get control of their diabetes. And so that is using the HEDIS [Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set] metric, hemoglobin A1c equal to or less than 8. So we are focused on that: helping people control their diabetes.

But that's more of a downstream goal; we wanted to also have an upstream goal and that is preventing people from converting to diabetes. So we also have a goal to prevent people from converting from prediabetes to diabetes.

For cardiovascular disease or conditions, we are focused on controlling high blood pressure. And that really dovetails with our maternal health goal, and also our diabetes goal, right? Well, I would say not so much our diabetes goal, but also our chronic kidney disease [goal], which I'll get to in a minute.

But for controlling high blood pressure—that's for our cardiovascular conditions—that's really just helping people manage their hypertension to the point that they hopefully will no longer be considered hypertensive.

And then for behavioral health, we are focused on depression screening. So, we realized that there are groups in our membership that are not being screened and so that is our focus there. And then we're creating goals around chronic kidney disease, which I think, like I was alluding to earlier, that our controlling high blood pressure goal will dovetail nicely with along with the maternal health goal.

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