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How my love for AZ brought me to Blue Cross Blue Shied of Arizona

By: Dr. Cara Christ, Chief Medical Officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

In junior high, my grandmother gave me the book called Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC. Thinking about it now, that small and insightful gift charted a path that, by mid-2021, led me to join Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) as Chief Medical Officer.

Through medical school, public health studies, and a 14-year career with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), I became increasingly energized that the opportunity to positively impact health on a large scale was in reach. Most diseases, chronic conditions, and adverse health outcomes are manageable, and many can even be prevented. At its core, public health innovates around health needs and engages people in managing their life for optimal health. It is based on science, proven clinical outcomes, and predictive health models that clearly demonstrate how health can be improved. Our charge is to get people diagnosed, feeling better, and living their best possible life or, even better, preventing them from getting sick in the first place.

As the director of the ADHS, I collaborated with members of the BCBSAZ team on many different projects, including the Opioid Emergency Response, the Arizona Health Improvement Plan, and, most recently, our country’s first 24/7 mass COVID-19 Vaccination Site at State Farm Stadium. It was evident that BCBSAZ looks well beyond the health of their two million members and demonstrates an extensive commitment to the health of all Arizonans.

BCBSAZ’s work on public health issues is heartfelt and evident as they put time, resources, and enthusiasm toward helping Arizona. It’s part of their DNA. When I was asked to join the team and develop a population health mentality inside of a health insurer with a family-like culture, I considered it an opportunity of a lifetime. I imagine my grandmother would be pleased to know that now, along with my BCBSAZ team, we are working diligently to think big, get creative and improve the lives of Arizona’s residents, families, and communities.

To make a difference for health in Arizona, there are three foundational factors to solve for:

Access to Quality Care

Appointments with the right provider and care teams need to be available and within geographic or virtual reach.

Affordable Care

Care can be secured within a variety of household budgets, without having to sacrifice essentials.

Health Coverage

Health coverage is in place including Individual or Family Plans, Employer Plans, Medicare, or Medicaid (called ACCCHS in Arizona).

 

In addition to getting the foundational elements right, I’m excited to address “whole person health.” According to NAMI, over one million adults in Arizona struggle with a mental health condition. We are working on implementing an integrated medical management strategy that addresses the whole person—physical health, behavioral health, and the vital social determinants of health. For example, an Arizonan who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from is less likely to prioritize controlling their blood sugar or taking time to get an eye exam or foot exam. Those basic needs must be addressed first to help someone reach their healthiest self.

Our goal is to create a best-in-class clinical management model, with data showing continued improvements in health outcomes for our members and improved health in the Arizona communities we serve. We aim to ensure Arizonans have access to affordable care, in high-quality networks, where they can engage in plans and programs that promote whole person health.

One of the first key health conditions we are addressing is diabetes. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, 1 in 10 of Arizona’s adults have diabetes. BCBSAZ is teaming up with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and other partners in the community to spearhead our Diabetes Action Plan that will work to lower HgbA1c (a test to measure blood sugar levels), increase engagement of members living with diabetes, increase provider coordination and accessibility, reduce the disparity of outcomes among members and perform routine surveillance to monitor diabetes. By 2025, our goal is to reduce the progression of diabetes by 25%. Not only will we be helping our members living with diabetes and prediabetes, but we will also aim to improve public health in our communities statewide.

At BCBSAZ, we are also enlisting multiple levers to stand up for affordability. There are so many ways to inspire health and make it easy: updating contracts to ensure healthcare affordability for our members; implementing programs to improve health outcomes in chronic diseases, such as diabetes and behavioral health; simplifying ways to test and treat COVID-19; and working with our Foundation for Community and Health Advancement to implement programs to ensure health equity and invest in the health of our state.

Over the past months, I’ve learned that the public health issues I was passionate about at ADHS are the same issues BCBSAZ is laser-focused on solving, including substance use disorder, mental health, chronic health conditions, and ensuring health equity. While it is a very large role and I am still learning new things every day, I am excited to continue inspiring health for all Arizonans with BCBSAZ.

 

Source:

BRFSS 2016-2020

NAMI - https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/StateFactSheets/ArizonaStateFactSheet.pdf

 

 

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Disclaimer

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.