Sinai Urban Health Institute Announces Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Partnership, $1.2 Million Community Health Grant

Mar 12, 2012, 17:21 ET from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois

CHICAGO, March 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI) announced today that it is partnering with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) to launch a major community health project on Chicago's west side.  SUHI, part of the Sinai Health System, is headquartered in Chicago's Lawndale communities, and is a leading urban health research institute with a mission aimed at eliminating health disparities.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois is providing a $1.2 million grant to fund the partnership that the two organizations are launching.The two-year grant funds "The Lawndale Diabetes Project," an effort that continues work already underway by the Sinai Institute in the North Lawndale community, and extends its focus on the diabetes epidemic to the predominantly Hispanic South Lawndale area as well.

Dr. Steve Whitman, an epidemiologist and director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute, provides background on the diabetes outreach effort. "The work we began in 2009 in North Lawndale's African American community focused on gathering key data on households and identifying the size and scope of the diabetes epidemic. That work was originally funded through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, and when it concluded, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois approached us to propose not only continuing, but expanding the project to a broader, diverse population.  Both organizations are focused on serving their communities – it felt like a natural fit."

Mr. Alan H. Channing, president and CEO of the Sinai Health System adds: "This initiative is consistent with Sinai's mission 'to improve the health of the individuals and communities we serve' and also with our vision 'to be the national model for the delivery of urban healthcare.'  We couldn't be more pleased with the partnership."

BCBSIL's parent company, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), operates Blues plans serving Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Unlike most large health insurers, HCSC is member owned and is not a publicly-traded company, so its obligations are to its members and communities, rather than to shareholders.  The SUHI grant is part of HCSC's "Healthy Kids, Healthy Families" grant program, an effort designed to invest in the communities it serves by addressing pressing healthcare needs.

Donna Gerber, BCBSIL vice president of Strategy and Community Investment explains, "Diabetes and childhood obesity are certainly pressing concerns that will negatively impact the health status and quality of life of many of Illinois residents.  With SUHI's help, we can begin to have a positive impact on this trend in two Chicago communities that have a higher prevalence of this disease. Based on what we learn here, it's our hope that we can then replicate our efforts in other Illinois communities."
Gerber continued, "We see it as our responsibility to partner with key community stakeholders to make the overall healthcare system better for everyone while driving down the cost of care. That has to happen in our neighborhoods, as well as in doctors' offices, hospitals and pharmacies."

The project will use local community health workers to survey 3,000 residents and identify 800 with Type II diabetes and another 350 at high risk for the disease in predominantly Mexican-American South Lawndale and predominantly African-American North Lawndale.  In addition, the health workers will gather data on childhood obesity.  They are employing new survey tools to gather knowledge about lifestyle behaviors and beliefs related to physical fitness, cooking, eating and nutrition.   

Based on this information, the project will employ a variety of community-based resources to improve the health status of those with the disease, and lower the risk of developing the disease for those at high-risk. Dr. Joseph West, who grew up in Lawndale and returned to live and work there said, "Through our Blue Cross partnership, we'll be able to move beyond data collection to developing strategies and tactics that can effectively manage disease and improve the overall health of these at-risk populations."


SOURCE Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois