BlueCross Foundation Funds Meharry Health Equity Research

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BCBST News Center, Feb. 1, 2021

$325,000 Grant Supports Efforts to Address COVID-19 & Health Disparities

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation has awarded $325,000 to Meharry Medical College’s Center for the Study of Social Determinants of Health. The grant will fund research by the nation’s largest private historically Black academic health sciences center on barriers to health care, poor health outcomes and vaccine hesitancy in at-risk, largely minority communities.

Over the coming months, Meharry researchers will work with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s clinical and data teams to use the company’s Social Vulnerability Index, a tool created to identify factors that increase risk for negative health outcomes, in developing strategies to improve health equity and COVID-19 vaccine acceptance.

“We are excited to support Meharry’s efforts that will ultimately help public health officials and civic leaders understand what makes some people and communities more likely to have severe health issues as a result of COVID-19 infection,” said Roy Vaughn, executive director of the BlueCross Foundation. “This award will support work to analyze what drives vaccine refusal and find ways to implement effective interventions in at-risk communities across our state.”

Studies show that several factors impact an individual’s risk of developing severe COVID-19, including race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and lack of access to needed health providers/services such as primary care and behavioral health care. Meharry’s research will identify areas of Tennessee with a high density of at-risk individuals and guide strategies for interacting with communities to drive positive behavioral change and improve population health.

“We appreciate the BlueCross Foundation’s support of this research, which is guided by the feedback and input shared by our communities,” said Dr. Bryan Heckman, director of Meharry Medical College’s Center for the Study of Social Determinants of Health. “We look forward to finding effective ways to combine precision medicine and public health approaches that can optimize health equity for Tennesseans.”

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