CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield strives for better health outcomes through public health

This content is sponsored by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

Public health jumped to the forefront of our minds after the coronavirus pandemic emerged and upended all of our lives, but that isn’t the only reason that CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) has decided to prioritize the issue.

CareFirst, the largest not-for-profit health plan in the mid-Atlantic region, believes that a rising tide lifts all boats.

That’s why the company is working to improve public health overall by pinpointing where health disparities exist and which social factors, called social determinants of health, are driving those disparities.

“We seek to strengthen our relationships and have more proactive relationships with our regional public health systems,” said Djinge Lindsay, MD, MPH, the director of public health for CareFirst.

Lindsay is a board-certified family physician with nearly 20 years of medical and public health experience.

She is now leading CareFirst’s strategy for advancing and achieving better public health outcomes for all people and communities across Maryland, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia.

“One of the main roles we have is to really provide leadership as we look at the population’s health through an equity lens,” said Lindsay. “Whenever and wherever we see inequities, we can try to level that playing field.”

Lindsay’s leadership experience is helping CareFirst become more of a proactive partner with local health organizations, health departments, academic institutions and employers to develop strategies across all industries to better serve people throughout the region and meaningfully impact accessibility, affordability and quality of care for all.

“Having grown up in a marginalized community, I’ve made my life’s work caring for people who have been underserved or experienced poor outcomes in the health care system,” Lindsay said. “I am really interested in how a business can use its levers to improve the health of our populations.”

Public health vs. health care

The terms “public health” and “healthcare” are naturally similar, but they do have different underlying meanings when it comes to improving the quality of people’s lives.

While public health tends to put the emphasis on whole populations, healthcare delivery largely pertains to the individual.

According to Lindsay, putting “social determinants of health” under a microscope is one of the key responsibilities for her team as they work to reduce inequities and improve public health.

“For the last couple of decades we’ve seen the cost of health care become astronomical, but we’re not seeing a concurrent increase in people’s health or quality of life,” said Lindsay.

Research has shown that medical care itself is estimated to account for only 10-20% of a person’s health. All other factors are harder to address within the walls of a doctor’s office such as economic stability, access to quality housing, transportation and more. “We’re talking about how we can address those factors that are further up the line that we know are ultimately going to drive poor health outcomes,” Lindsay said.

How can we support Public Health?

The coronavirus pandemic certainly impacted the public health system in the United States. CareFirst recognizes that some of the biggest public health issues are a lack of funding and people.

“We’re dealing with now underfunded, under-resourced and understaffed health departments and health systems,” said Lindsay. “We are a business, so we don’t necessarily control all those things that impact the infrastructure of public health, but there are definitely opportunities where we can support and partner.”

CareFirst does this by providing support through grants to local community health organizations and partnering with the region’s state health systems. For example, the company is working with the State of Maryland on efforts to further diabetes prevention and maternal mortality reduction.

And supporting the public health system isn’t reserved for the healthcare industry alone. CareFirst encourages employers and businesses across all sectors to play an active role in the health of their workforce and communities. This can be done through employee health programs, such as nutrition and exercise benefits. Support can also be through grants, even untraditional opportunities such as creating workforce development programs and economic opportunities.

Read more: CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield reduces barriers to healthcare with untraditional investments, partners – WTOP News

Lindsay sees a bright future for our Public Health system.

“It’s really exciting to see other people in the industry, like banking institutions and educational institutions really take on the role and creating more opportunity for people to really be healthy and really thrive in our society.”

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