WellPoint Receives Diabetes Health Disparities Grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded WellPoint, Inc., with a $400,000 grant to implement a health disparities pilot aimed at helping African American and Hispanic members better manage their diabetes.

WellPoint's proposal was one of four grants awarded by the foundation's "Finding Answers: Disparities Research for Change" program, which was created with the goal of sharing what programs and approaches work and don't work in reducing racial and ethnic health care disparities.  The overall goal is to develop successful programs that can be replicated in other communities to reduce health disparities in the United States.

The winning grantees were evaluated and selected based on the following factors: strength of the intervention, demographics of the institution, institutional commitment to addressing disparities in healthcare and improving quality of care overall, data collection capacity, and the scientific quality of the proposed research project.

"The new federal health care law provides dramatic expansions in access to care, but we need to ensure that care is high-quality care for every patient, every time they see a provider. These grantees will help the nation reduce stubborn disparities in care," said Dr. Marshall H. Chin, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, Department of Medicine and the Center for Health and the Social Sciences, as well as the director of the Finding Answers program. "There are significant gaps between the health care quality people should receive and the care they actually receive."

Many studies have documented that African Americans, Hispanics and other minority groups experience higher prevalence of diabetes, poor quality of care, and worse outcomes when compared to whites.

"This grant will assist WellPoint in its ongoing efforts to bridge cultural health care gaps in diabetes and improve the lives of our Hispanic and African American members," said WellPoint Chief Medical Officer Sam Nussbaum. "By sharing our programs and our results, it also confirms our commitment to address health inequities-not only those that impact our members-but those that affect all Americans."

WellPoint will provide additional resources and conduct the program in California, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and Georgia. The program, led by WellPoint's Health Equities & Cultural and Linguistic Programs Office, will build on an award-winning pilot already conducted in California and Georgia that focused on providing meaningful information to members of WellPoint affiliated health plans tailored to the cultures of African American and Hispanic members.

The California and Georgia pilots focused on creative and culturally appropriate ways to communicate with members-including providing information on how members could reach out to local churches to share these messages with others and providing bilingual Spanish print fotonovelas, a photographic version of a soap opera. These pilots also provided diabetes educational materials that included ways to substitute ingredients in favorite ethnic meals to make them healthier.

This new program will also study the application of behavioral economics by offering financial incentives to those members who reduce and maintain their blood sugar levels within healthy ranges at two different points within the eight month-long intervention. The team also will assess whether improvements in diabetes control are sustained after the financial incentives are removed. The study will last three years.

WellPoint plans to work with physician practices in these five states to identify interested members with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes.

This project will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jose Escarce and Dr. Arleen Brown, of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research in the School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles.

"We know that low adherence to recommended treatments and unhealthy behaviors are major causes of poor blood sugar control," said Escarce. "While some interventions have been shown to be effective in improving control, they don't have a lasting effect."

"The WellPoint program is a unique combination of approaches that we hope will have a more lasting impact on patient behavior and health," Brown said.

About WellPoint, Inc.
WellPoint is committed to improving the lives and health of the people and communities we serve by simplifying the connection between health, care and value. Our goal is to help shape the impact each health care decision has on individuals, the health care system at-large, and our communities. WellPoint's more than 42,000 associates work every day to help create the best health care value for our customers. Through collaborations with providers and with innovative programs, WellPoint's affiliated health plans reward healthy lifestyles and quality, safe and effective care. As the nation's largest health benefits company, with 33 million members in its affiliated health plans, WellPoint is at the center of the health care system. This position provides us with the relationships and insights needed to help create affordable and actionable solutions that improve health care.

As an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, WellPoint serves members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as the Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in 10 New York City metropolitan and surrounding counties and as the Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), Wisconsin; and through UniCare. Additional information about WellPoint is available at www.wellpoint.com.

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