Blue Cross: Ready to Help Michigan Communities Live Healthier

Blues Perspectives

| 6 min read

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has a longstanding commitment to helping everyone in Michigan live healthier – both for our members and the most vulnerable members of our communities.
We do this because we know that as much as half of a person’s long-term health is determined by social and environmental factors, including income, education and employment status. These are called social determinants of health, and can result in negative, lifelong health outcomes. Without the right resources, accessing health care can be out of reach – leading to worse health outcomes and higher costs for everyone.
Many community-level organizations including schools and nonprofits have connections and programming aimed directly at helping those most at risk – but are limited in their scope due to funding or other resource constraints. Blue Cross is ready to help these ground-level programs as a community partner, from supporting mothers of color with prenatal and postnatal services, to substance use disorder prevention in the Latino community, to addressing food insecurity, to comprehensive care for the queer community, just to name a few.

Facilitating life-changing care for the uninsured

Jeanne Campbell of South Lyon could barely open her mouth the first time she saw dentist Dr. Mark Cooks at Hope Clinic in Ypsilanti– a nonprofit that serves low-income and uninsured patients with a safety net of integrated high-quality care and assistance.
Campbell’s front teeth had decayed and failed after she battled an illness in 2019 that landed her in the hospital twice and made it difficult to keep up with regular oral care while she was on disability. Not only did her oral health suffer – her mental health did as well: the condition of her smile kept her from doing what she loved as a music teacher and performer. She had fallen into depression; and the cost of the dental work she needed was keeping her from getting help.
Campbell found Dr. Cooks and Hope Clinic at just the right time. After rounds of appointments and extensive dental work, Dr. Cooks was able to fix Campbell’s smile – and give her a new lease on life.
Services at Hope Clinic – dental, medical, behavioral health and food service – are made possible through community supports and partnerships. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has supported Hope Clinic in its work since 2005. Most recently, it recently awarded the clinic an additional grant to support the addition of a second dental hygienist, a position that greatly expands dental services to clients.
Hope Clinic is among a network of clinics in Michigan offering free and low-cost care as a safety net for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is the single-largest private funder of these free health clinics in the state. Since 2005, Blue Cross has awarded $19 million to health clinics through its Strengthening the Safety Net program.

Supporting schools with resources for students’ whole health

As children and teens increasingly struggle with mental health challenges, a statewide program backed by Blue Cross is available to help staff train to identify warning signs and know how to respond. 
Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness is a free program and available to all Michigan schools. It offers a menu of healthy eating, physical activity and mental health and well-being resources that schools can choose from to help make their school environment healthier and create a culture of wellness. Among them is a suicide prevention training course.
Building Healthy Communities is a program supported by Blue Cross in partnership with a host of statewide organizations, including the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, Michigan Fitness Foundation, Michigan Recreation and Park Association, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Virtual, OK2SAY, SHAPE Michigan, and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan.
The program is open to all schools – public, charter and private – and aims to create healthier school environments for physical and mental well-being. The goal is to prevent childhood obesity, reduce chronic disease and improve academic achievement by providing evidence-based and sustainable equipment, training and curriculum curated to meet the ongoing needs and challenges within Michigan schools. The program, now in its 15th year, has helped more than half a million students at 1,260 schools.

Expanding programming to lift up diverse communities 

Detroit’s Nicoyia Stewart breastfed each of her six children – and she’s working to help make sure more Black women are empowered to make the same choice for their families. Stewart recently graduated from a program as a lactation consultant: a program aimed at increasing the diversity in the field to address longstanding racial disparities in rates of breastfeeding among Black mothers.
The goal of the Lactation Consultant Program is to make the lactation workforce in Southeast Michigan more racially congruent and in turn influence more Black mothers to breastfeed, knowing they’d receive support, education, and assistance from professionals they can relate to and identify with. The program is run by Ascension St. John Hospital and Henry Ford College, and recently received support from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.
The funding has specifically help to remove financial barriers for people training to become lactation consultants – which in turn has increased the diversity of those who are able to participate, so the demographics of lactation consultants more closely reflects the communities they serve. With help from the BCBSM Foundation, the Lactation Consultant Program became the first accredited program in the Midwest, eighth in the U.S. and ninth in the world.
This program is one of hundreds funded by the BCBSM Foundation in its work supporting research and programs that address the needs of Michigan’s most vulnerable populations. Each year, the BCBSM Foundation invests grant funding in local and regional nonprofits, hospitals, physicians, universities and doctoral students to target some of the most pressing health issues in the state.

Improving the health of Michigan residents for generations to come

From helping older adults age in place, to funding innovative ideas that solve community-level health challenges, to implementing innovative ways to access behavioral health care, to improving access to fresh food and to supporting infants and their mothers, the Michigan Health Endowment fund helps to make a difference. Since 2014, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has contributed $810 million to the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, of which it is its sole patron.
Much of this funding is being invested to create a sustainable, long-term resource to improve the health of Michigan residents for generations to come. Each year, the Health Fund awards grants to more than 100 organizations help them serve more people in communities across the state. Blue Cross is committed to paying $1.56 billion to the Health Fund over the course of 18 years.

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MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association