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Insurer readies plan to boost community health in Richmond Insurer prepares to launch program to improve community health in Richmond

Richmond Times-Dispatch - 9/25/2017

Your Health

A community initiative that national insurer Humana started two years ago in Louisville will soon land in Richmond.

The Bold Goal project is intended to make the communities in which it is launched - only seven so far - healthier by addressing the various issues that influence health, from diabetes and depression to food insecurity and loneliness.

"It's really for the entire community of Richmond," said Dr. Ann Vaughters, Humana Mid-Atlantic Medicare medical director.

The ultimate "bold goal" of the program is to improve Richmond's health within five years.

Humana will measure health through surveys of its members in the Richmond area using "healthy days," a tool often used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The survey very simply asks participants how many unhealthy days they've experienced physically and mentally in the previous month. The ultimate goal is to reduce the prevalence of those unhealthy days.

Humana itself does not actually create new projects or programs through its Bold Goal initiative. Rather, it works by involving stakeholders in the area - like hospitals, primary care physicians, employers and nonprofit groups - to work together and identify ways to improve Richmond's health.

"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel in Richmond, we're not trying to create novel projects," Vaughters explained. "We're looking to liaise between all these different siloed projects that Richmond has already engaged, especially in communities that need it the most."

The hope is to bring those stakeholders together in community town halls in early 2018, and then to create an advisory board that could collectively steer the city in the right direction.

"One thing we've really realized in the other cities in which this is piloted is that, what our targets are based on the city and the city's needs," Vaughters said. "San Antonio may be looking at diabetes. Richmond is going to have its own unique needs, and we feel as though we've identified several of them."

Some of those needs include Richmond's rates of obesity and tobacco use, both of which are above the national average.

"And then, certainly, the social isolation in seniors is a large issue," Vaughters said. "Seniors we can identify as being socially isolated have an increased risk of diabetes, dementia, as well as other health-related concerns."

Richmond was chosen to participate in the Bold Goal program because of the insurer's strong presence in the area, particularly in regard to its Medicare Advantage products.

The insurer has previously launched the program in Louisville; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.; Tampa Bay and Broward County, Fla.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and San Antonio.

So far, the Bold Goal program has showed positive results in the communities where it's been launched. In 2016, Humana's members reported a 3 percent decrease in unhealthy days in the communities where Bold Goal was launched, according to its annual report.

koconnor@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6813Twitter: @katiedemeria


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