Highmark Creates Multi-Dimensional Approach to Address Health Care Disparities

PITTSBURGH, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- In 2002, the Institute Of Medicine (IOM) published Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, a report that concluded racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than whites, even when they are of similar age, at a similar income level and have the same access to health coverage and care.

Although the quality of health care is poor for many Americans, specific racial and ethnic groups continue to experience worse quality care than their white counterparts. Evidence of these disparities in treatment is strongest for African-Americans and Hispanics in the U.S., but is also growing among American Indians.

Highmark Inc. has formed a multi-dimensional approach to focus on health care disparities, and has been addressing this issue for more than five years through activities including data collection; focused interventions by the Integrated Clinical Services division; programs by the Community Affairs division; Highmark Foundation programs aimed at improving community health; and national initiatives that are designed to reduce disparities and improve the quality of care for all.

"With strong support from senior management, Highmark is taking a comprehensive approach to address health care disparities," said Rhonda Moore Johnson, M.D., medical director of integrated clinical services at Highmark. "Highmark takes its obligation seriously. We know we have opportunities to close some gaps in health care quality among our racial and minority group members. Our comprehensive strategy includes working with our providers, our health care systems, our members and our communities to improve health care quality and access. We want all of our members to live longer, healthier lives. "There are many possible reasons for these disparities, including access to high-quality care; cultural and language barriers; health literacy barriers; limited cultural competence of providers and health care organizations; biases; prejudices and stereotypes that may affect the way providers render care; and lack of trust by minority patients for the health care establishment.

"Reducing health care disparities is important to Highmark, as well as a key focus of the federal government and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 disease prevention and health promotion objectives," said Johnson. "Highmark will continue to take an active role in reducing racial and ethnic health care disparities. Developing and implementing strategies to reduce or eliminate disparities will require Highmark to develop more effective communication tools and strategies to interact with a diverse pool of members."

About Highmark Inc.

As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.6 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

SOURCE Highmark Inc.