BlueCross Foundation Funds Meharry Health Equity Research

$325,000 Grant Supports Efforts to Address COVID-19 & Health Disparities


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation has awarded $325,000 to Meharry Medical College’s Center for the Study of Social Determinants of Health. The grant will fund research by the nation’s largest private historically Black academic health sciences center on barriers to health care, poor health outcomes and vaccine hesitancy in at-risk, largely minority communities.

Over the coming months, Meharry researchers will work with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s clinical and data teams to use the company’s Social Vulnerability Index, a tool created to identify factors that increase risk for negative health outcomes, in developing strategies to improve health equity and COVID-19 vaccine acceptance.

“We are excited to support Meharry’s efforts that will ultimately help public health officials and civic leaders understand what makes some people and communities more likely to have severe health issues as a result of COVID-19 infection,” said Roy Vaughn, executive director of the BlueCross Foundation. “This award will support work to analyze what drives vaccine refusal and find ways to implement effective interventions in at-risk communities across our state.”

Studies show that several factors impact an individual’s risk of developing severe COVID-19, including race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and lack of access to needed health providers/services such as primary care and behavioral health care. Meharry’s research will identify areas of Tennessee with a high density of at-risk individuals and guide strategies for interacting with communities to drive positive behavioral change and improve population health.

“We appreciate the BlueCross Foundation’s support of this research, which is guided by the feedback and input shared by our communities,” said Dr. Bryan Heckman, director of Meharry Medical College’s Center for the Study of Social Determinants of Health. “We look forward to finding effective ways to combine precision medicine and public health approaches that can optimize health equity for Tennesseans.”

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About BlueCross®

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is a taxpaying, not-for-profit health plan serving more than 3.4 million members in Tennessee and around the country. The Chattanooga-based company was founded in 1945 and has brought peace of mind to its members and local communities for more than 75 years. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company’s news center at

About BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, Inc.

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, Inc. was established in December 2003 as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation organized to promote the philanthropic mission of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. The foundation provides funding for the BlueCross Healthy Place program, which creates active, healthy spaces across Tennessee.



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