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Tennessee Blues Enlists Pastors to Help Reduce Healthcare Disparities

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, December 4, 2013

The Lifting our Members program includes a free tool kit that can be used within faith-based communities to help their individual congregations learn about the importance of childhood immunizations, preventive care, women's and men's health, and behavioral health.

Trained volunteers—mostly Blues employees—have distributed the tool kits and trained congregations at more than 200 churches in communities identified through the data analysis of ZIP codes as having the greatest disparities.

Freeman says she works closely with the analytics team at BCBSTN to develop the information the volunteers need to convince churches to support this effort. "We have to make sure the pastors and ministers see this as something beneficial." Customizing information by ZIP code makes the program "more powerful to them. It really brings it home when we can tell them what's happening in their local community."

In addition to volunteers, BCBSTN employs several community care partners in the focus communities who also do outreach to the congregations by organizing health fairs at which providers are on hand to help with immunizations and preventive screenings. The insurer also appeals to its provider network members to open their offices some Saturdays for shots and screenings.

Freeman notes that transportation is often an issue for the Medicaid population, so her team works with transportation vendors to help families get to medical appointments and keep their children up to date with scheduled shots.

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