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Humana has released its “Bold Goal – 2017 Progress Report,” showing the strides the company has made – along with physicians and local community nonprofit, government and business partners – toward improving the health of the communities it serves nationwide.

As stated nearly two years ago, Humana’s Bold Goal is to make the communities it serves 20 percent healthier by 2020 by making it easy for people to achieve their best health.

The latest numbers show that nationwide, more people are experiencing Healthy Days, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measurement that reveals how a person is feeling holistically, including his or her mental and physical health. The report shows a 2 percent improvement in Healthy Days on a national basis among Humana’s membership.

Humana continues to work with targeted Bold Goal communities to support local public health and care-intervention programs. This collaboration has helped improve Healthy Days by a margin of 3 percent in these communities. Six of Humana’s seven Bold Goal communities have seen improvements in Healthy Days.

And Humana’s 50,000 associates (employees) are still on track to improve their overall Healthy Days by 20 percent by the end of 2017. Associate experiences found to be particularly successful will be replicated in local communities.

Creating lasting behavior change in the communities Humana serves requires highly local and holistic care solutions that focus not just on clinical measures but social determinants of health. This demands a deep understanding of the fabric of local communities.

This approach, which Humana has emphasized in its Bold Goal communities, specifically addresses how social determinants such as food insecurity, health literacy and transportation can significantly impact an individual’s health.

Collaborating with local entities has been key, and the latest report details Humana’s work with physicians and community partners in places such as San Antonio, Louisville, Tampa Bay, Broward County (Florida), New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Knoxville.

San Antonio, Humana’s first Bold Goal community, experienced a 9 percent decrease in the number of Unhealthy Days, partly by addressing barriers to health in the community such as food insecurity and limited access to behavioral health services. Through a telepsychiatry pilot program and food insecurity screening implemented in primary care offices, these health barriers were directly addressed. Improvements in diabetes management were also achieved through collaboration between Humana, the San Antonio Health Advisory Board and the American Diabetes Association.

The community of Tampa Bay, one of Humana’s largest Bold Goal communities, has been working to address the issue of food insecurity through initiatives led by primary care physicians. The Tampa Bay Health Advisory Board and Humana, in partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida and other community partners, developed the Hunger Action Alliance to confront this issue.

In Louisville, Humana and community partners addressed respiratory illness, depression and behavioral health, including the Bold Moves Against Suicide Summit, which brought together more than 200 thought leaders, physicians and community partners to address the issue. While Louisville has the fewest number of Unhealthy Days compared to other Bold Goal communities, the city did not see an improvement in Healthy Days from 2015 to 2016. Humana has a number of initiatives planned for 2017, including intervention programs in partnership with the Louisville Health Advisory Board, to help accelerate Louisville’s progress.

Through its Bold Goal program, Humana has found that making communities healthier demands an integrated approach.

“Improving the health of an entire community is difficult, and no one person or organization can do it alone,” said Bruce D. Broussard, Humana President and CEO. “The progress we’ve made is encouraging, and we owe a large part of that success to the many different physicians and community members who have come together to make Humana’s Bold Goal a reality. Putting a stop to preventable diseases and improving the health and the lives of the people we serve are efforts worth fighting for, and we will continue to take what we’ve learned to add more Healthy Days into people’s lives.”

This year, the company is expanding the Bold Goal to other communities, focusing on strategies with the most impact on health outcomes. Humana plans to quickly determine what initiatives are effective and then scale them to achieve a community-level impact on health and Healthy Days.

Read the full report here.

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Investing in population health and value-based medicine helps our communities but also makes good financial sense, said Dr. Roy Beveridge, Humana’s Chief Medical Officer, in a blog post for Forbes.com.

“Healthy people spend more time enjoying life and less time in hospitals,” Dr. Beveridge wrote. “Health plans pay fewer claims when their members are healthier, and those members spend less out of their own pockets. When people are healthier, they have fewer unplanned and avoidable physician office visits. This frees up physicians to focus on wellness and disease prevention–things like flu shots and diabetes prevention–while also allowing time for their sickest patients, those who need them most.”

It makes sense to understand and try to influence the local, social and environmental factors that affect people’s health, he wrote.

“A better healthcare model is one that makes people healthier by reducing health barriers, promoting disease prevention and ensuring a dedicated focus on the sickest among us. It is not simply taking care of people when they become sick. It is working to prevent people from becoming sick.

“This is a win-win for all: healthier people, improved quality and lower costs. It’s the promise–the trifecta–of population health, and it leverages the concept of value-based care by paying physicians for the health outcomes of the populations they serve, not simply for the services they provide.”

Factors such as air quality, sedentary lifestyles, food insecurity, transportation and social isolation have a big impact on health, and no community is the same.

“Health must go beyond health coverage and clinical services and address these frequent social factors that impact people’s daily lives,” Dr Beveridge wrote. “Population health is about understanding the impact of these local elements and addressing and integrating them in a holistic approach with the clinical elements.”

Read the full blog posting here.

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The idea of using “experience groups” – asking people to describe in real terms what their everyday lives are like and then acting on the insights – is gaining traction among health care providers and employers, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal.

Humana’s Tim State, Vice President, Associate Health and Well-being, spoke with the newspaper about how Humana has used experience groups to improve the company’s employee health-and-wellness offerings.

Tim noted the importance of social influence on health. He said the experience-group discussions reinforced the idea “that people often will improve or worsen together.”

“As a result of the discussions, Humana developed more team fitness activities, such as group step challenges, so workers could inspire each other to better health,” the newspaper reported. “It also loosened its dress code to business casual so people would feel more comfortable moving around. And when many of the employees talked about having limited time to devote to health and fitness, Humana began allowing some workers to dedicate part of each workweek specifically to those activities.”

Read the entire article here.

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Humana Pharmacy in Phoenix recently donated more than 3,000 pounds of diabetic supplies (four pallets), including insulin syringes, pen needles, and test strips, to Insulin for Life USA, a nonprofit that provides insulin and disease management supplies free of charge to those with diabetes in developing countries who otherwise would go without these lifesaving provisions. The supplies were unused and unopened and returned by members for various reasons to the Humana Pharmacy dispensing facility in Phoenix. Due to various state pharmacy laws, Humana Pharmacy cannot redistribute these items to other members. Rather than let these items go to waste, Humana Pharmacy teamed up with Insulin for Life USA to provide people with diabetes in places like Barbados, Belize, Cayman, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Uganda access to tools to help manage their diabetes.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, an estimated half a million children worldwide below the age of 15 are living with type 1 diabetes, with thousands of newly diagnosed children every year. Especially in developing countries, these children suffer and sometimes even die due to a lack of insulin and supplies.

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New research by Humana and Dr. Stacy L. Smith at the University of Southern California highlights the ongoing prevalence of ageism in film and the misrepresentation of real-life seniors.

The studies find that characters aged 60 and over continue to be under and misrepresented in Hollywood’s most critically acclaimed films. Findings were uncovered through an ongoing partnership between Humana and the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. A separate but growing body of evidence exploring ageism suggests there are consequences to stereotypes of aging Americans—including potential negative health impacts.

Led by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, USC’s study analyzed 1,256 speaking or named characters in the 25 best picture-nominated films in 2014, 2015, and 2016, to assess the portrayal of characters aged 60 and over. In tandem, Humana analyzed its own quantitative survey data on the attributes considered most important for aging Americans. One theme that emerged from the Humana data was the perceived importance of feeling optimistic, valued or recognized. If seniors aren’t accurately portrayed onscreen, might it impact their well-being in real life?

A deeper analysis of the findings shows:

  • Even in the most critically acclaimed films, aging characters are underrepresented and stereotypically portrayed.

o  Of 1,256 characters evaluated, only 148 (11.8 percent) were 60 years of age or older – despite representing 18.5 percent of the U.S. population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

o  Six of the 14 films that featured a leading or supporting aging character contained ageist comments. Examples of these comments include “mentally feeble, sick old ladies” and “…just sit here and let Alzheimer’s run its course” – revealing that even critically acclaimed films misrepresent what it means to be a senior citizen.

  • There are inherent consequences to these stereotyped portrayals of aging Americans – including not feeling valued as a member of society and a potentially negative impact on health.

o  Humana’s quantitative survey segmented seniors aged 60 and over by those who feel most valued, which was defined as being positively recognized and appreciated by family, friends and society.

o  Those seniors who felt least valued reported more than twice as many physically unhealthy days and more than three times as many mentally unhealthy days per month as their “most valued” counterparts.

o  Regardless of their health, most seniors agreed that film industry portrayals of their age group were inaccurate.

“The outcry over the lack of diversity at Hollywood’s premier award show has failed to recognize the value of senior voices on screen,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, director of the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. “While 2016 best picture nominated films are more diverse when it comes to gender and some racial and ethnic groups, ageism is still an accepted form of exclusion in cinematic storytelling.”

Dr. Yolangel Hernandez Suarez, vice president and chief medical officer of care delivery at Humana, shared her own thoughts on the subject. “Clearly, there’s more work to be done before we can say precisely how inaccurate media portrayals impact self-image in seniors, from their sense of being valued to their sense of optimism, but what really concerns me as a physician is how a diminished sense of self-worth can, in turn, impact a senior’s health,” said Dr. Hernandez Suarez. “In our survey, we showed that aging Americans who report feeling more valued in society tend to have more healthy days. At Humana, we believe aging with optimism contributes to health, and that’s why we’re committed to reversing societal perceptions and promoting aging with optimism.”

Key findings surrounding both studies were showcased at “Over Sixty, Underestimated: A Look at Aging on the ‘Silver’ Screen in Best Picture-Nominated Films”, a discussion at the University of Southern California on Feb. 16.

Read the full news release here.

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