“It’s been a hard year, filled with change.”
These are the first words of a TV spot our foundation produced that encourages Tennesseans to get their flu shot.
I appreciate it because those words hold so much of what we’ve all experienced this year. We’ve wrestled with decisions about how to respond safely to COVID-19 and dealt in new ways with the lingering impacts of racism in our society. And while those two challenges may feel distinct, they aren’t for many members of our communities.
That’s why health disparities were one of the key themes we discussed at this month’s Power of We Workforce Diversity Conference. Those disparities have led to differences in the way COVID-19 is affecting different population groups.
At the conference, people from around 200 companies joined us for enlightening, productive conversations on topics including generational diversity and how to create workplace cultures where everyone feels welcomed and has a voice.
My colleagues, Dr. Andrea Willis and Sherri Zink, shared new research on these disparate impacts and introduced a new tool called the “Social Vulnerabilities Index.” Our teams will use the index to help identify at-risk members we can help through education, care coordination or connections to social support services. You’ll have a chance to read more about that soon here on BCBSTnews.com.
We’re also pushing these conversations forward within our own company, of course, with new unconscious bias training for all employees, and a series of meetings called “critical conversations” that allow each team space to hear and learn from one another.
Beyond our walls, our foundation recently awarded six Power of We Diversity Scholarships to bright young students who’ll help us build a more inclusive health care workforce and reduce health disparities. And the foundation gave $1 million to support HCS EdConnect, a collaborative effort to bridge the digital divide in Hamilton County.
In all of these efforts and so many more, our goal is to better understand one another and work together to bring better health to everyone we serve.