Tapping Into Our Associates for Insights
As a woman of color and the child of an aging parent, Martine Beaumont is well aware of the added health risks linked to racial and ethnic disparities, and she is determined to contribute to the solution. Nationally, a growing body of evidence finds stark racial and ethnic differences in the prevalence of chronic illness, access to and use of preventive care, and the health impact of social and environmental conditions.
Martine is the director of cost and trend management at Blue Cross, and a member of our Black Professional Network (BPN) ERG. In 2015, she and Tom Hawkins, M.D., one of our company’s medical directors, participated in the 2015 Disparities Leadership Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, and they have used the experience as a springboard for gaining a better understanding of how Blue Cross could help address health disparities within our membership.
Joined by Jane Williams, M.D., also a Blue Cross medical director, Martine and Tom reached out to the BPN, and also our Hispanic/Latino and Asian ERGs, to gain personal perspectives on racial disparities in the use of primary care. Participants in the disparity discussions offered valuable insights on the barriers faced by members of their families or communities, as well as possible solutions. Among the themes discussed:
- Health care is not seen as a priority for people who have other challenges that affect everyday living.
- Cultural and language barriers can keep people from seeking out the primary care they need.
- In some cultures, people tend to visit the doctor only when they are sick.
- It is important to “listen and learn” if you want to convince people to change unhealthy lifestyles or habits; different cultures require different approaches.
- In many communities, church leaders would be natural allies in an effort to encourage primary care.
“This kind of feedback directly informs the health improvement solutions we can offer to our employer accounts and members,” Martine says. “On a personal level, the discussions have inspired members of the ERGs to get more engaged in understanding health disparities in our own communities.”
Blue Cross ERGs bring together associates with shared characteristics, affinities, or life experiences. Their allies, too, are welcome to join any group.
We currently have eight ERGs: Women’s Inclusion Network, the Black Professional Network, Blue Pride (the LGBTQA network), Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Empowering Abilities (for people with disabilities and other capabilities), Young Professionals Network, and, new in 2015, our group for military veterans.