CVS adding 14 new markets to its Project Health preventive screening program

CVS is expanding its Project Health program to 14 additional markets. (CVS Health)

CVS Health is expanding its program to offer no-cost, community-based screenings to 14 more markets.

Project Health, which is now in its sixteenth year, offers a slew of free biometric screenings at CVS Pharmacy locations, including blood pressure, glucose levels and cholesterol. Patients can then meet with a nurse practitioner, who can provide additional guidance and referrals for treatment if needed.

New markets include Birmingham, Alabama; Phoenix; Jacksonville, Orlando and Tallahassee, Florida; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina; and Knoxville and Memphis, Tennessee, CVS said in announcement provided first to Fierce Healthcare.

The program is also launching four new mobile units, CVS said, and anticipates providing 1,700 screening events across its 32 markets by the end of the year.

RELATED: CVS wants to facilitate 65B healthcare interactions by 2030. Here's how

Kyu Rhee, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer at CVS Health, said his own experience as a primary care physician underscores how critical it is for patients to receive preventive screenings sooner, before diseases advance.

The program also allows CVS to address the needs in underserved communities, particularly communities of color, that have been hit especially hard by COVID-19, he said. The healthcare giant also made a nearly $600 million commitment last year to invest in addressing the inequality faced by Black people and other disenfranchised communities.

"Our commitment to addressing disparities and achieving health equity is stronger than ever," he said.

Since its launch, Project Health has provided more than $134 million in free services to more than 1 million Americans, CVS said.

RELATED: Aetna bringing CVS-centric plan to new markets with eye on further expansion

Rhee said a critical component in addressing racial health disparities is building trust and having a presence in the community that facilitates access. CVS is able to get at both challenges, he said; for one, it has a large reach through its retail footprint.

In addition, the company's workforce is increasingly diverse, he said. Half of CVS' pharmacy technicians are nonwhite, as are about 40% of its pharmacists. Rhee said a key part of building that trust is "making sure that you’ve got folks who represent the populations you’re looking to serve."

"We are committed to meeting people where they are and providing these free screenings that often many people didn’t think of or didn’t have access to," he said.