EAGAN, Minn., July 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is committing to a multi-year, multi-pronged community health initiative in Willmar, Minn. The initiative, which will include the formation of two community-based groups, and support for existing efforts, is the result of ongoing conversations between the health plan, local organizations and community leaders. Over the next 30 months, efforts will focus on reducing barriers to good health, and building connections within the community.
"Willmar has experienced, and is continuing to experience, significant change. It is growing rapidly, and its population is increasingly diverse and aging," shared Janelle Waldock, vice president of community health and health equity at Blue Cross. "While we've heard that people in Willmar are facing some significant barriers to health, and see evidence of that when we look at health data, it is poised to be a model for other communities in the state and nation. We hope our funding and involvement in Willmar can be a catalyst for the type of positive action we hear the community is ready to undertake."
Blue Cross staff have spent the last year meeting with community leaders who represent the various cultures, generations and interests that comprise Willmar. As a result, financial and staff support will be directed toward three distinct, but connected efforts:
Supporting existing work, with a specific focus on improving health within segments of the community which face the greatest health disparities;
Creating a Community Table, which will explore new and innovative approaches to improving health. This group will be comprised of a diverse group of residents who are committed to this work, but who may not have had the opportunity to serve in formal, community leadership roles previously; and
Developing a Responsive Care Table, which will consider innovative ways to make the health care system more accessible and culturally responsive to all members of the community.
Blue Cross expects to invest up to $2 million through the end of 2018 in this initiative, with the majority funded through tobacco settlement funds. These funds were set aside by the company in 2006, and have been invested during the past 10 years in initiatives aimed at improving the health of all Minnesotans.
"We are very excited to see what can be accomplished through this ongoing collaboration, but we also know we can't do it alone," said Waldock. "The community of Willmar will continue to drive the direction of this initiative and heavily influence any decisions we make. That's the only way to ensure we're helping make healthy and sustainable opportunities possible for all members of this community."
Blue Cross has also committed to making a one-time contribution of $10,000 to Willmar Community Education and Recreation. All funds will be directed toward water safety education, in honor of the two Somali youth who drowned in Foot Lake in late June.
The Willmar initiative is part of an ongoing effort by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to improve health and advance health equity within communities throughout Minnesota. Blue Cross believes that all people, regardless of race, income, zip code or other factors, should have opportunities to live the healthiest lives possible, and strives to reflect this in its community-based initiatives and business practices.
ABOUT BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF MINNESOTA Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (bluecrossmn.com), with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.