SOURCE: National Business Group on Health

August 07, 2012 16:15 ET

Eight U.S. Employers Honored for Programs to Reduce Health Care Disparities in Workplace

Health and Human Services Department, White House Business Council, National Business Group on Health Recognize Organizations at Special Roundtable

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - Aug 7, 2012) - The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in conjunction with the White House Business Council and the National Business Group on Health, today recognized eight U.S. organizations for their ongoing commitment to reducing health care disparities in the workplace and for supporting a diverse workforce. The eight organizations -- Aetna, Inc., American Express, Cigna, H.J. Heinz Company, Pitney Bowes, Inc. (in partnership with UnitedHealthcare), Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, Verizon and Wyndham Worldwide -- were honored at a roundtable event organized by HHS where they shared their initiatives and discussed future opportunities and challenges to reduce health disparities.

Helen Darling, President and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, who moderated the roundtable discussion, commented: "We are thrilled and grateful that these eight employers who have been recognized by us over the past two years for their innovative programs to reduce health disparities are being honored by the U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MPH. Dr. Benjamin, the White House Business Council and the National Business Group on Health know that good health for the entire population is crucial to quality of life, our standard of living, productivity and the nation's overall success. Because minorities suffer from more health problems than others and also have access to fewer, high quality, effective services, employers are recognizing that they must do much more in a focused way to ensure health equity for all employees and their families."

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin added: "We applaud each of these forward-thinking organizations for their commitment and ongoing efforts to address and lower health care disparities. They are among a select group of organizations who understand that reducing health disparities in the workplace will lead to improved health, productivity and quality of life of their employees and families. It is our hope that employers all around the country will follow their lead.

The eight employers and their initiatives included:

Aetna's commitment to reducing health care disparities is demonstrated through the company's 11 years of work to address racial and ethnic disparities in health care -- through researching, developing and delivering culturally appropriate care for its members. These initiatives include Breast Health Ethnic Disparities Initiative, Beginning Right Maternity Program, African American Hypertension Study, and ER Utilization in Minority Asthmatic Populations. A key component of the effort has been the company-supported and employee-managed Employee Resource Groups. ERGs have helped reduce barriers to collecting racial and ethnic data on a voluntary basis to help create more culturally focused disease management and wellness programs.

American Express has demonstrated its dedication to reducing health disparities by creating an integrated data warehouse to better understand health care gaps for their employee population and have demonstrated results of all ethnicities having migrated from high risk to low and medium risk categories. In addition, American Express provides an innovative wellness program that offers supportive resources, enhanced access to care and incentives to help foster healthy changes for its employees, and their families. The company is also using this data to address disparities through its use of on-site health clinics, its wellness program, and partnerships with health plans.

Cigna has committed to reducing health disparities not just among their employees but also amongst their 11 million customers. Their use of indirect race and ethnicity data allow Cigna to identify and prioritize opportunities to reduce health disparities among their entire customer population. Cigna's Health Disparities Council has worked to leverage the cultural expertise of its own employees to customize communications for specific populations in terms of language, cultural appropriateness, reading level and preferred channel. In the last four years, Cigna has achieved significant progress in addressing disparities by building and delivering interventions that are customer-centric and culturally appropriate.

H.J. Heinz has a bilingual culture of health and provides all written communications in English and Spanish as well as having translators available where possible to accommodate speakers of other languages. The company also has on-site health champions, including bilingual support leaders, who encourage participation in a wide range of wellness activities among U.S. employees of all cultures. Heinz also covers 100% of the cost of preventive screenings and flu vaccinations for all U.S. employees and their families to reduce potential barriers to early detection.

Pitney Bowes Inc. partnered with UnitedHealthcare to positively impact and improves the health status of its employees and engage its Spanish-preference employees. To optimize results, UHC brought in its experts -- Latino Health Solutions (LHS) -- a dedicated team of Hispanic professionals to improve the health and well-being of its Hispanic/Latino members. Since its inception, UHC LHS has aimed at favorably impacting and reducing health disparities in the Hispanic/Latino community by providing a robust array of culturally-relevant, bilingual health and wellness information, tools, services and resources especially tailored to meet the unique healthcare needs of its Hispanic/Latino members.

The Franciscan Clinic is a ministry of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System and was created to provide employees with greater access to timely, appropriate care. Prior to the opening of the Clinic many employees were forgoing much needed care because of the cost. The Clinic serves to eliminate social disparities within the organization and increase access through a medical home model increasing participation rates in use of preventive services. Attention to health and wellness also includes a focus on mental health and emphasizes education and diabetes management services.

Verizon has the longest running focus on the reduction of health disparities among its employees and has excelled in working with health care vendors, empowering employees through education, partnering with Employee Resource Groups, and supporting the community. To encourage good health, Verizon offers discounts on health care coverage to non-smokers and has 45 on-site fitness centers with trainers. Verizon has implemented on-site mammography screenings to increase screening rates, particularly with minority women, as well as targeted cultural communications campaigns to increase screening rates in women aged 35 and over. In 2012, Verizon expanded its focus on reducing healthcare disparities by launching a national health care program as part of the Verizon Foundation's philanthropic work. The Foundation's funding will support technology-enabled health care programs that increase disease management & access to care for underserved populations.

Wyndham Worldwide's extensive "Be Well" wellness and benefits program delivers a myriad of benefits, healthy initiatives and resources which are available to all U.S. based associates and make an impact across the company's extremely diverse workforce. This includes a full-time wellness advisor who works with the Vice President of Diversity to meet the wellness needs of a diverse population, domestic partner benefits available under most of Wyndham Worldwide's benefits plans, and a wellness council comprised of a diverse group of employees to help enhance the organization's wellness programs and resources.

All eight companies were previously honored by the National Business Group on Health as recipients of its annual Award for Innovation in Reducing Health Care Disparities in 2011 and 2012.

About the National Business Group on Health
The National Business Group on Health is the nation's only non-profit, membership organization of large employers devoted exclusively to finding innovative and forward-thinking solutions to their most important health care and related benefits issues. The Business Group identifies and shares best practices in health benefits, disability, health and productivity, related paid time off and work/life balance issues. Business Group members provide health coverage for more than 50 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families. For more information, visit

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