One of the great joys anyone can experience is getting involved in something at the start, when the idea is fresh and the purpose compelling, and then seeing others come join the cause. It could be a business that starts in a corner store and grows into a franchise. Or a movement to change public policy that starts in a neighborhood and eventually galvanizes millions of people to correct an injustice.
Nearly 10 years ago, we at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan saw a need of great magnitude impacting our families, communities and future. Our children, by measures of their health status, were growing into adulthood with the deck stacked against them. Obesity – which is not always, but often, a preventable health condition – was rampant among our kids. One-in-three Michigan kids were at immediate risk of growing into adults and developing the types of chronic conditions caused by obesity – heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer.
At Blue Cross, we saw an opportunity to not just get involved – but to lead a statewide effort to create meaningful, lasting and positive change. And by virtue of our size and longevity in the state, we had the wherewithal to do it.
This week, across the country, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are reporting out on our collective efforts to improve the health of people in our local communities. It’s something Blue Plans can do – because each of our 36 companies are locally based and locally operated. We are connected and invested locally. Here in Michigan, our strength to positively impact community-focused needs comes from 77 years of being involved at the ground level in people-focused efforts in small towns and big cities all over our state.
Building Healthy Communities is just one example, but it’s a good one. Ten years of work to identify, measure and replicate programs that work in local schools to create healthier environments and lessons for our children has begun turning the tide on childhood obesity. In fact, Michigan has seen its first statistical indications that the growing trend of obese children is turning around. This has lasting positive implications for the quality of their lives and health care costs in our state.
This turnaround is due in no small measure to the partners that have joined us on this journey. What began as a small grant program 10 years ago has drawn the attention and energy of multiple statewide organizations, including the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Fitness Foundation, University of Michigan, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Wayne State University, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Team Nutrition and Action for Healthy Kids.
These partners have helped expand Building Healthy Communities into a robust, statewide program that has impacted nearly 400 school environments overall and nearly 200,000 kids’ lives.
Through the Blues’ system’s “Investing in America’s Health” report on community-centered investment and partnerships, you can see the impact of Blue companies, galvanizing our community partners into a national force for good. On issues from attacking the opioid epidemic, to addressing health disparities that limit access to care, to investing in improving the quality and efficiency of health care delivery, we make our difference by bringing people together to affect positive change.
Here in Michigan, across a number of efforts, we are accomplishing our goals. This week on our blog, we will be highlighting some examples – a program that mobilizes people of faith to compete between congregations to become healthier; an effort to help a Detroit soup kitchen that served as a call-to-arms for our employees; and a teamwork approach that creates positive experiences and memories for kids around a message of fitness.
For 77 years, people have been the driving force for our company’s mission. The people who work here, the people we cover through our insurance, and the people we help in our communities. Because our mission, over all that time, has been a healthier Michigan.
Photo Credit: A Healthier Michigan
This post is part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s ‘Investing in America’s Heath’ initiative – The Power of Blue. Learn more about Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s commitment and investment in local communities here, and follow the #PowerofBlue hashtag.