CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield awards $1.76M to battle diabetes epidemic

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, a not-for-profit and the largest health care company in the mid-Atlantic region, Monday announced a grant investment of $1.76 million to combat the diabetes epidemic.

The funds were distributed across 27 local health improvement coalitions, health councils and collaboratives working to address the upstream social determinants of health (SDOH), or social and environmental factors, impacting the severity or likelihood of developing diabetes. These investments build on CareFirst’s ongoing commitment to address chronic conditions as part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) National Health Equity Strategy. This round of investments is Phase I of CareFirst’s $10.5 million commitment to addressing diabetes announced last year.

In 2020, CareFirst worked with Socially Determined, a Washington-based health care analytics firm to analyze social risk factors and identify pilot communities whose residents would benefit from interventions that prevent or treat diabetes through Phase 1 grant funding. Review of this health data within CareFirst’s service area revealed that SDOH, such as food and nutrition security, housing stability, health literacy and other factors, have a significant impact on the likelihood of developing diabetes or prediabetes, with African American and Hispanic populations disproportionately affected by the disease.

Organizations in the identified pilot communities were invited to submit a proposal for grant funding including Baltimore city, Prince George’s County and Washington (Wards 7 and 8). In addition, organizations outside of these pilot communities in western Maryland, northern Virginia, southern Maryland, central Maryland and the Eastern Shore were invited to submit proposals for their work addressing diabetes in CareFirst’s service area beyond those identified for the pilot.

During this first round of funding, CareFirst prioritized grassroots organizations and local health coalitions promoting economic inclusion, educational opportunity, behavioral health, chronic conditions, and accessible, affordable, high-quality care, to address root causes of health disparities and diabetes in historically marginalized communities. These financial investments will strengthen organizational capacity, partnerships between communities and health systems, and support innovative interventions to address the existing work being done by local community health partners.

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By Betty C. Giordano

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