Monday, October 18, 2010

Georgia Diabetes Pilot Bridging Cultural Health Care Gaps for African Americans and Hispanics Gains National Recognition

/PRNewswire/ -- A health equities pilot developed for Blue Cross Blue Shield members is one of seven programs recognized this year with a Best of Blue Clinical Distinction Award. The pilot, in which Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa) was a participant, was developed for Hispanics and African Americans with diabetes. The award was given for the pilot's innovative and successful approach to improving access to high quality, safe and affordable health care for consumers.

The Best of Blue Clinical Distinction Program was developed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy. The purpose of the Clinical Distinction Awards is to highlight the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans nationally that demonstrate innovation, efficiency and potential for replication.

The pilot, "Bridging Cultural Health Care Gaps: Diabetes," was submitted by BCBSGa's California affiliate, which also had participants in the pilot. Two other affiliated plans in Indiana and Maine also earned Clinical Distinction Awards.

"Research shows 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 of BCBSGa's parent company's Programs in Clinical Excellence. "With this pilot, our goal was to find ways to provide useful and relevant information to our Hispanic and African American members. This information helps them better control their diabetes and improve their quality of life."

In asking members their opinions and researching their behaviors and attitudes, it was discovered that aspects of culture—food, family, faith and fear of disease complications, such as amputations and blindness, were factors that may influence behaviors and attitudes toward health care among African Americans and Hispanics. These issues were explored in many of the educational materials.

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.

"Harvard is pleased to recognize this pilot that sets such high standards for its effectiveness in improving patient care," said Barbara J. McNeil, Ph.D., head of the Department of Health Care Policy, 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."

The randomized controlled pilot studied more than 4,000 African American and Hispanic members in California and Georgia.

"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."

BCBSGa's parent company plans to use this pilot in other states.

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