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The initiative includes an ambitious plan to slash racial disparities in maternal health.

The social determinants of health (SDoH) were gaining momentum as a hot-button topic in healthcare even before COVID-19 killed an estimated 860,000 Americans and sickened tens of millions more.

Now, they are essentially regarded as an imperative.

Joining the Talk Ten Tuesdays weekly Internet radio broadcast this week will be an industry expert whose current work speaks directly to the issue: Lenel James, MBA, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) business lead for health information exchange and innovation, and payor advisor to the HL7 Gravity Project.

“We’re delighted to have Lenel on our broadcast today, because the topic, the social determinants of health, is particularly timely, given that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released the transcript and slides from their recent presentation on their Innovation Center’s Health Equity Strategy,” said Chuck Buck, Talk Ten Tuesdays host and ICD10monitor Publisher.

Discussion of that development will align with Lenel’s anticipated remarks on the BCBS Association’s National Health Equity Strategy, which the company says will confront the nation’s crisis in racial health disparities. The strategy features five key efforts:

  • Collecting data to measure disparities;
  • Scaling effective programs;
  • Working with providers to improve outcomes and address unconscious bias;
  • Leaning into partnerships at the community levels; and
  • Influencing policy decisions at the state and federal levels.

The multi-year strategy will also specifically focus on conditions that disproportionately affect communities of color, such as behavioral health, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues. Arguably most key among these is maternal health, as BCBS noted in a fact sheet that the nation’s maternal mortality rate for Black mothers is triple that of white mothers, and prevalence of delivery complications is 46 percent more common. The goal, BCBS says, is to reduce such racial disparities by half within five years.

To guide its efforts, BCBS has assembled a National Advisory Panel on Health Equity, featuring nine members from institutions of higher learning, healthcare organizations, and nonprofits from across the country.

“We recognize we cannot do this alone,” BCBS said in a statement. “We invite others – industry leaders, stakeholders, and policymakers – to join us in this critical work. We are hopeful that, together, we can affect meaningful, measurable progress for the health of all Americans.”

To learn more about the BCBS National Health Equity Strategy, go online to BlueHealthEquity.com.

Programming Note: Listen to this exclusive broadcast today on Talk Ten Tuesdays, 10 Eastern.

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