Community joins forces to live healthy in Miami’s Little Havana

Community joins forces to live healthy in Miami’s Little Havana
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Much like the neighborhood for which it is named, the Live Healthy Little Havana program is a mix of many different elements. It’s a community-led initiative, a partnership with the government, a collaboration with health organizations and an effort to improve resident/police relations — all rolled into one.

To really know what a community needs, you have to live there. Talk with your neighbors over the back fence. See the issues with your own eyes. That’s what makes the Live Healthy Little Havana program a success.

Neighborhood residents, working as community liaisons, are at the heart of the work to improve life for those in the community. And everyone’s got a seat at the table, from government representatives to health workers to lifelong residents. It’s a model that’s driving change — and one that other communities can replicate.

Live Healthy Little Havana participants are working on multiple fronts toward a single goal — to improve life for the residents of this storied community. We showed up at one of their events to hear about how it’s working — and watched as kids from the neighborhood vied to be the first to get the local police commander into the dunk tank.

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Testing Atlanta’s Westside

Testing Atlanta’s Westside
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Atlanta’s Westside has a long history of civil rights activism. The neighborhood was home to leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Julian Bond. Systemic racism has marginalized communities throughout the United States. The consequences can be measured in the health outcomes of people who live in moderate to high need areas like Vine City, where the life expectancy is 13 years shorter than communities only 20 miles away. CVS Health is working to close that gap, alongside the staff at Good Samaritan, a local health center that is now providing free COVID-19 testing to those in the community who need it most.


The importance of testing, the power of community

In the podcast, we explore these topics even more deeply with Breanna Lathrop. We also caught up with Dr. Bill Warren, the visionary who founded Good Samaritan some 21-and-a-half years ago. John Ahmann is the president of the Westside Future Fund and an Atlanta native who brings an historical perspective to the discussion before closing the loop with Makeda Johnson, director and founder of the Sisters Action Team, who draws from her faith and the power of collective action over individualism in supporting her community.

Several people walking into a CVS Health community test center in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Creating safer pregnancies through preeclampsia prevention

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A new, first-of-its-kind initiative designed to prevent the devastating impacts of preeclampsia in pregnant members launched today as part of the Aetna Maternity Program. Building on the enterprise’s long-standing commitment to support expectant mothers on a path to better health, the initiative is focused on preventing this condition, a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death that accounts for 15 percent of all preterm births in the U.S.https://www.preeclampsia.org/faqs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is one of the only high-income countries where deaths related to pregnancy or childbirth are on the rise. This crisis also disproportionately affects Black women.https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr69/nvsr69_02-508.pdfhttps://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/ And, in recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges, as many expectant moms may be attending fewer in-person prenatal care visits that could help detect preeclampsia risks.

“Alarmingly, women today are 50 percent more likely to die in childbirth than their mothers were, and Black women are at an even higher risk. We must do more to address this public health crisis and keep moms and babies healthy,” says Daniel Knecht, M.D., CVS Health’s vice president of clinical products. “The goal of this initiative is to help empower our members to have productive discussions with their providers throughout their pregnancy journey.” 

Empowering safer pregnancies

Amidst the COVID-19 landscape, pregnant women may be attending fewer in-person prenatal care visits and in turn be at higher risk for developing complications that go undetected.

Read the infographic

By leveraging Aetna claims data, the program identifies high-risk pregnant members for individualized outreach and subsequently sends them an engaging, personalized prenatal care kit. Each kit contains educational materials about preeclampsia, along with an 81 mg bottle of low-dose aspirin, an intervention that can substantially reduce the risk for developing the condition. Members also receive an appointment reminder card encouraging them to have informed conversations with their obstetrician about the potential benefits of low-dose aspirin.Note: Pregnant women should always talk to their doctor before starting an aspirin regimen.

Although preeclampsia has no cure, taking one low-dose aspirin a day has been proven to be a low-cost, safe medication that can significantly cut the risk of the condition and some of its complications.https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1704559?query=recirc_curatedRelated_article Despite compelling evidence, providers and patients are largely unaware of aspirin’s effectiveness, highlighting the important need for continued education.

“CVS Health is well-positioned to improve both access to and outcomes of maternal and neonatal health care, including for causes of severe maternal morbidity that is disproportionately experienced among minority women,” noted Joanne Armstrong, M.D., CVS Health enterprise head of women’s health and an OB/GYN. “We have delivery channels that can bring critical information and resources, such as low-dose aspirin, right to members’ doorsteps. This outreach is coupled with a care management program featuring highly trained and dedicated nurses to support the personalized needs of pregnant members.”

The initiative is an exciting and simple way that CVS Health and Aetna are empowering safer pregnancies and connecting expectant mothers with preventative care that meets their unique needs. As part of the Aetna Maternity Program’s efforts, all pregnant members will receive a letter and flyer from the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine informing them about preeclampsia and its signs and symptoms.

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20 U.S. cities and counties pledge to improve local systems and policies to advance health equity with $2 million in grants from the Aetna Foundation

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APHA, NACo and Healthy Places by Design to collaborate on capacity-building efforts to accelerate community change

WASHINGTON — The Aetna Foundation, together with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo), today announced the organizations selected to receive a grant as part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to support communities that are changing the way they work together across sectors to reduce disparities in chronic disease outcomes. This grant program will award a total of $2 million to teams of organizations that will work together to change the food access and health care systems in their communities and engage community residents as leaders in their work.

"Access to health care and healthy food can significantly impact rates of chronic disease and other health outcomes, with average life spans varying by up to 20-30 years in communities that are just a few miles apart," said Aetna Foundation President Eileen Howard Boone. "We are proud to partner with APHA and NACo to support the work of the teams taking on the Healthiest and Cities & Counties Challenge to drive change and address these social determinants of health work that is now more important than ever, given the COVID-19 pandemic."

The Challenge teams will each receive $100,000 to implement multi-year projects to advance health equity in communities where individuals are disproportionately impacted by health disparities. In addition to the funding, Challenge teams will participate in one-on-one technical assistance provided by APHA and NACo and co-create a supportive peer-learning network led by Healthy Places by Design over the course of the two years.

The project teams are located in the following cities and counties:

  • Chula Vista, California

  • Tompkins County, New York

  • Collier County, Florida

  • Cumberland County, North Carolina

  • Deerfield Beach, Florida

  • Wilkes County, North Carolina

  • Dougherty County, Georgia

  • Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Cumming/Forsyth County, Georgia

  • Cleveland, Ohio

  • Perry County, Kentucky

  • Cambria County, Pennsylvania

  • New Brunswick, New Jersey

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Paterson, New Jersey

  • Kerrville, Texas

  • Orange County, New York

  • Greenbrier County, West Virginia

  • Rochester, New York

  • Wheeling, West Virginia

"There is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving health equity," said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. "Successful, lasting change comes from cross-sector partnerships and engaging affected individuals and communities, which is why this challenge is so powerful. Together, communities in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge will be able to achieve enduring transformations to public health."

Added NACo President Mary Ann Borgeson, "Counties play an essential role in protecting, promoting and improving health in our communities across the country. The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge recognizes the positive impact of cross-sector partnerships and offers opportunities for counties to develop innovative approaches to meet residents' health needs."

The project teams intend to use what they learn over the next two years to produce models and resources that can inform work in other similarly sized cities and counties across the country. Challenge communities have proposed strategies including:

  • Increasing access points for purchasing fresh produce and receiving health care;

  • Leveraging local schools as partners;

  • Addressing barriers to transportation;

  • Building more equitable models for food procurement and distribution;

  • Increasing coordination and data-sharing across organizations;

  • Improving health care referral systems;

  • Developing community advisory boards; and

  • Informing local policies.

An expert review panel selected the teams following a rigorous review process, which looked at a variety of factors including: level of innovation of their proposed approaches; intended impacts on systems and policy change; and alignment of diverse partners around common priorities.

The Aetna Foundation, which first launched the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge in partnership with APHA and NACo in 2016, is an independent, charitable and philanthropic affiliate of CVS Health.

The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public's health.

Contact

Erin Britt
CVS Health
401-318-3962

APHA Media Relations
202-777-3913

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CVS Health launches "Time for Care" encouraging individuals to prioritize primary health care needs

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) today announced the official launch of Time for Care, a campaign that reinforces the importance of accessing primary health care. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have appropriately focused on staying home to keep themselves and others healthy. Although this kind of physical distancing is still an essential component of preventing the spread of COVID-19, it is critical for people to continue prioritizing health care needs.

"While we remain focused on reducing the spread of COVID-19, we also need to make sure that we're encouraging people to get the care they need to avoid worse health outcomes in the future particularly people with chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease," said Garth Graham, MD, MPH, Vice President, Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer for CVS Health. "The 'Time for Care' campaign drives that message home while reminding everyone of the precautions they can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

Time for Care includes a national television ad, which launches today, along with a microsite, digital content, and Aetna member program components that address concerns for people with chronic health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as specific health issues such as high-risk pregnancies due to preeclampsia. To help inform the campaign's design, Aetna and Morning Consult initiated a national survey among 4,400 Americans to identify barriers to accessing care amid COVID-19.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly 60 percent of Americans said they have canceled or delayed a health care appointment due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19 since the pandemic began

  • Half of Americans have concerns the pandemic has negatively affected their own health or the health of someone in their household

  • Nearly 60 percent of people with chronic conditions are concerned the pandemic has negatively affected their own health or the health of someone in their household

  • Fifty percent of pregnant mothers are not confident their primary care physicians have put the necessary measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 has deeply affected the Black and Hispanic communities across the U.S. where higher rates of chronic conditions are common. CVS Health is actively working to address these racial and ethnic health disparities by expanding community-based testing in underserved areas. More information is available on CVS Health’s COVID-19 testing information and locations page.

Dr. Graham added, "Now is the time to reevaluate both our physical and mental health needs not only for our families, but for ourselves. We all need to find ways to actively and safely reconnect with health care providers and encourage loved ones to do the same."

To learn more, visit aetna.com/timeforcare and follow #TimeForCare to join the conversation.

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company. We're evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that's in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings from HealthHUB locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we're transforming health at www.cvshealth.com.

Contact

Ethan Slavin
SlavinE@aetna.com
860-273-6095

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Amidst a pandemic, consumers say they want accessible, affordable and technology-enabled health care, new CVS Health study finds

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Path to Better Health Study also reveals desire for digital health care solutions to support chronic care, mental health needs.

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — The American health care system is undergoing a period of rapid transformation. In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed new challenges and opportunities to accelerate advances in health care delivery, solve for systemic health inequities, dramatically improve care outcomes, and better meet consumer expectations for convenience and affordability.

With a global pandemic as the backdrop, CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) fielded the 2020 Path to Better Health Study, where consumers and providers were asked for their thoughts on the state of health care and how they are navigating this evolving landscape. While certain attitudes may have evolved as a result of COVID-19, the study reveals that consumers need more accessible, personalized and technology-driven health care than ever before and are seeking simplicity in the way they engage in their own health.

The use of technology and data analytics in health care is reaching new heights, and the pandemic is accelerating the adoption of digitally based solutions. Consumers are eagerly embracing tech, especially when it comes to communicating with their providers. Forty-eight percent said they would be more likely to communicate with health care professionals if they were able to do so through digital messaging (up from 41% in 2019), via telehealth (32%, up from 19% in 2019) and through virtual office visits such as Skype or FaceTime (29%, up from 20% in 2019). Additionally, 40% of consumers said they would be very likely to receive care for mental and behavioral health virtually.

"The pandemic has forced countless Americans to rethink their approach to health and explore different avenues of care," notes Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS Health. "Whether in the community, in the home or in the palm of their hand, people are discovering new ways to conveniently and affordably address their health care needs, including mental and behavioral health. We expect these changes will transform the way care is delivered moving forward."

The need to manage chronic conditions and mental health concerns is clearly top of mind for many consumers. A significant number of people indicated that members of their households are struggling with high blood pressure (41%), obesity (35%), mental illness (28%) and diabetes (17%).

Addressing mental health concerns is also of growing importance, especially among those aged 18 34 and 35 50, where social isolation is a top concern. For example, 44% of those aged 18 to 34 and 45% of those aged 35 to 50 indicated they no longer have a desire to be social, while only 29% of those aged 51 to 64 said the same. This resembles the 2019 findings, in which 48% of those 18 to 34 and 45% of those 35 to 50 reported they did not have a desire to be social, versus 35% of people aged 51 to 64.

The desire for accessibility is pushing people to explore new avenues of care. While a majority (62%) of consumers still go to their primary care physician (PCP) to treat a minor illness or injury, nearly one-third (31%) are likely to visit a non-emergency walk-in clinic. This is up from 2019, in which 59% of consumers reported going to their PCP for a minor illness or injury, while 28% said they would visit a non-emergency walk-in clinic. Digital solutions such as telemedicine are also growing in popularity with both patients and providers.

Most consumers (92%) said it is very or somewhat important that health care be convenient a factor that has only become more critical as a result of COVID-19.

About one-third (35%) of people said health care costs are an obstacle to staying healthy, and close to half (49%) have not visited a doctor when they had a minor illness or injury due to cost. Despite cost emerging as a top barrier to care, it is not often a topic of discussion between patients and health care providers. Two-thirds of patients (66%) said their PCP and other health care providers had not asked about the "affordability" of health care and/or discussed resources to assist with these costs, up slightly from 64% in the 2019 Path to Better Health Study.

Other highlights from the study include:

  • Health care providers are increasingly turning to digital tools and technologies to care for and connect with their patients. Telemedicine is of particular interest, with 40% of providers saying it is very valuable for communicating with patients, up from 22% in the 2019 study. The future outlook for incorporating predictive analytics or artificial intelligence into provider practices also looks strong, with more than one-third (39%) indicating they already have or are very or somewhat likely to integrate these technologies into their practices within the next several years.

  • Providers are expressing the need for additional support for important community resources, but access is improving. For example, many providers said they have fair or poor access to substance abuse counselors (56%) and mental health counselors (50%), down from 63% and 55% in our 2019 study, respectively.

  • Many providers are experiencing burnout symptoms. Three-fourths (75%) of all providers said they feel burned out very frequently, frequently or sometimes. About one-quarter (27%) said the main cause of burnout is time spent documenting care/electronic record systems, followed by administrative/management requirements/paperwork (25%).

Read the full study.

About the study

The Path to Better Health Study by CVS Health, first released in 2018 and called the Health Ambitions Study, was conducted in March 2020 and included two surveys fielded by Market Measurement, a national market research consulting firm. The consumer survey comprised 1,000 participants 18 and older, located throughout the U.S. It also oversampled 12 metropolitan statistical areas Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Hartford, San Francisco, Tampa and among two ethnic groups: African American and Hispanic people. The survey of 400 providers focused on primary care physicians and specialists with at least two years' experience, as well as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacists.

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company. We're evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that's in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings from HealthHUB locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we're transforming health at www.cvshealth.com.

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Kathleen Biesecker
bieseckerk@aetna.com
703-472-8466

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Path to Better Health Study 2020

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CVS Health’s 2020 Path to Better Health Study finds that consumers are seeking a more accessible, affordable and technology-enabled health care experience than ever before. 

The American health care system is undergoing a time of accelerated innovation and transformation. Consumer expectations for convenient and personalized health care support, coupled with the exploding use of technology and data analytics, are just several trends driving critical change. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has also provided an opportunity to further advance health care delivery and utilization to better meet the needs of our patients, our customers and our communities.

According to our 2020 Path to Better Health Study, now in its third year, consumers and providers are hungry for this care transformation and want health solutions that meet them where they are — in store, in home and in hand.

cvs heart

40%

of consumers said they would be very likely to receive care for mental and behavioral health virtually.

71%

of consumers indicated they were greatly concerned with treating chronic illness due to cost. 

81%

of providers reported that they always, often or sometimes recommend that their patients establish health goals during routine office visits.

Importance of accessibility and affordability

Delivering accessible, high-quality care at any time is a key health care priority — and has become even more significant during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to our study, consumers agree, with 92% indicating that it was very or somewhat important that health care be convenient. 

We found that people’s desire for accessibility is pushing them to explore new avenues of care. While a majority of consumers still go to their primary care physician (PCP) to treat a minor illness or injury, nearly one-third of consumers are likely to visit a non-emergency walk-in clinic.

Consumers are receiving routine support for minor illnesses or injuries at several sites of care: 62% report visiting their primary care physician; 31% report using emergency walk-in clinics; 18% report visiting a hospital emergency room; and 15% report visiting community health clinics.

“Consumers are demanding convenience and ease in how they access health services. Technological solutions have the power to simplify health care and significantly expand the ways we deliver it,” said Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS Health, adding that COVID-19 has provided an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate transformation and drive lasting and systemic change in the American health care system. “Our growing local presence and expansion of virtual care, telemedicine, and other omnichannel programs will be critical to meeting the health needs of our members and customers, both during and after the pandemic.” 

Affordability is also top-of-mind for consumers. About one-third (35%) of people said health care costs are an obstacle to staying healthy, while close to half (49%) have not visited a doctor when they had a minor illness or injury due to cost, suggesting that consumers could use additional support in this area.


Increasing appetite for technology-enabled care

The use of technology across the health care continuum has been rising at a rapid rate. As a result of COVID-19, the pace of technological transformation will only quicken and greatly influence the future of care delivery. 

Our study shows that people want to use technology to enhance communication with their health care providers, by adopting tools like digital messaging, telemedicine and virtual office visits. Among providers, their use of digital technologies to care for and connect with patients is also expanding. Telehealth is of particular interest, with 40% of providers saying it is very valuable for communicating with patients, up from 22% in our 2019 study.

The use of digital tools to facilitate communication between patients and providers is on the rise. Digital messaging among consumers is up 7% from 2019 with an overall usage of 48%. Among providers, digital messaging is down 2% from 2019 but overall usage is at 36%. Telehealth services, have shown a 14% increases among consumers, with a 32% overall usage rate. Among providers, usage of telehealth services increased 18% with a 40% usage overall.

Our Path to Better Health Study also found that:

  • Mental health is of critical concern for consumers, especially among those aged 18 to 34 and 35 to 50, with the issue of social isolation being a top concern.
  • Consumers, as well as their friends, family and other household members, are struggling with chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, mental illness and diabetes. 
  • Health care providers still need more support in accessing important community-based resources, such as nutritionists and social workers, but this access is improving. 
  • Many providers are experiencing burnout symptoms at least some of the time. 
  • Awareness of and involvement in value-based care models is growing.
A woman sits at a dining room table eating a salad and a piece of bread while quietly smiling and reading a tablet computer.

Methodology 

The Path to Better Health Study by CVS Health, first released in 2018 and called the Health Ambitions Study, was conducted in March 2020 and included two surveys fielded by Market Measurement, a national market research consulting firm. The consumer survey comprised 1,000 participants 18 and older, located throughout the U.S. It also oversampled 12 metropolitan statistical areas — Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Hartford, San Francisco, Tampa and among two ethnic groups: African Americans and Hispanics. The survey of 400 providers focused on primary care physicians and specialists with at least two years’ experience, as well as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacists.

A woman in gray athletic clothes stretches and practices yoga poses in a very light and bright room. The photo is set inside of a CVS Health® heart on a red background.
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COVID-19 data reveals huge health disparities

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Forty-six-year-old Angelene Sailes always helped those in need. The Detroit resident enjoyed looking after her nieces and nephews and volunteered regularly in her church community, says her cousin Marquitta Sailes

So it was especially painful when Angelene died alone in the hospital on March 26 of COVID-19 complications. “There was no one there with her in her final moments,” says Sailes. “It didn’t have to be that way.”

Compounding the devastation was the hindsight that Angelene lacked critical information about the risks for COVID-19 at its onset.

Statistics now show that Black people are dying from COVID-19 at a rate that is nearly two times higher than their share of the nationwide populationhttps://covidtracking.com/race?fbclid=IwAR1L-IN8L3INPqsaXjl_TY7UM7LTtuygKUA7tdkL3CROPWv6Hg8MJCkKq78, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center. In hard-hit states like Michigan, the rate is nearly three times greater.

Angelene Sailes and Marquitta Sailes.
Angelene and Marquitta. Angelene died alone at age 46 from COVID-19 complications.
“It just breaks my heart because we're dealing with two pandemics. We’re dealing with racism and we’re dealing with a virus that’s killing more African Americans.” — Marquitta Sailes
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Research is finding that the social determinants of health, which include housing, education and employment, are linked to increased risks of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

“We have seen the COVID-19 pandemic expose clear problems that our health care system has been facing for many years, including disparities in potentially deadly conditions based on people’s race and ethnicity,” says Dr. Garth Graham, Vice President, Community Health and Impact, CVS Health. “Social determinants can directly impact someone’s overall health and life expectancy, so in a situation like a pandemic, this issue is amplified, especially in at-risk communities.”

Understanding that more work needs to be done, CVS Health is prioritizing the needs of Black communities as it expands COVID-19 testing nationwide.

Health disparities, race and COVID-19 risks

As data surrounding COVID-19 continues to bring America’s health disparities into greater focus, findings show Black people are being impacted at a disproportionate rate across the country.

Read the infographic.

Over half the company’s more than 1,400 testing sites serve moderate to high needs communities, as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index. While these sites primarily accommodate drive-through customers, CVS Health is also launching new no-cost walk-up testing sites in underserved communities. Since March, CVS Health has conducted 1 million COVID-19 tests nationwide.

“Through our partnerships, we are able to reach people who may lack easy access to testing,” says David Casey, Vice President, Workforce Strategies & Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health. “By working together to address racial disparities, we can flatten the curve and help save lives.”

Several people walking into a CVS Health community test center in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Get the right care for you – even during a pandemic

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By Dr. Garth Graham, MD, MPH, Vice President, Community Health & Impact, CVS Health, and Oliver T. Brooks, MD, President, National Medical Association

This story was also featured in U.S.News & World Report.

We have all seen the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had in communities across the country. And as we’ve watched the case numbers and death toll rise, we’ve seen an unsurprising trend: The virus began to level a disproportionate blow to minority and underserved populations.

This trend has continued, with Black and Hispanic communities across the United States showing more significant effects from COVID-19 compared with other demographic groups, whether through greater financial impacts, higher rates of infection or higher rates of death. When age is taken into account, the death rate for Black Americans is 3.6 times that of whites, and Hispanics' is 2.5 times higher, according to recent research from the Brookings Institution

While elected leaders, public health officials and the business community have worked together to reach into communities with expanded testing and other resources, we know we’re treating a symptom of a larger issue. One in 2 Americans have a chronic disease, and it is well-documented that members of underserved communities face higher rates of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that young Black Americans are living with diseases more common at older ages, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Hispanic and Latino Americans have a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

We are working to address these racial and ethnic disparities in treatment and care that public health experts have known about for years, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare. Today, that mission is more critical than ever before as both of these crises converge to create another negative consequence of the pandemic: Many people with chronic conditions are delaying care due to fear of contracting COVID-19 in a health care setting. 

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly half of Americans said either they or someone in their household has skipped or delayed needed medical care because of the coronavirus. Alarmingly, a significant share of those who postponed care reported that they or their family member's condition worsened as a result.  According to a New York Times editorial by leaders of the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic, cancer diagnoses are down by 45 percent, and reports of heart attack and stroke are down by 38 and 30 percent, respectively – all indicating that individuals are not seeking care for acute emergencies or getting regular screenings.

While much is still unknown about COVID-19, the impacts of these devastating conditions are well-known, and treatment and preventive care protocols are well-established. It is absolutely critical for those suffering or at risk to continue regular doctor visits and seek treatment in the event of a medical emergency such as a stroke or heart attack. Aetna, a CVS Health company, is using data analytics to identify members with chronic conditions who may be at higher risk for COVID-19 and providing support to not only keep them from contracting the disease, but also to make sure they are continuing to receive the care they need for their existing health issues. 

Health care professionals across the country understand this issue and are making themselves more readily available for health issues not related to COVID-19, while at the same time creating protocols to keep their patients safe. Telehealth has experienced a huge surge in adoption over the past few months, allowing patients and providers to connect virtually without risk of exposure to the virus. In fact, the utilization of telemedicine for virtual visits through CVS Health MinuteClinic is up by nearly 600% compared with the first quarter of 2019. 

Yet even though the ability to see patients virtually can be a huge advantage in helping limit the spread of COVID-19, there are certain health issues that benefit from being addressed in a person-to-person setting. Making sure that people know it is safe to receive care in a clinical setting if it is needed is absolutely essential to maintaining the overall health of the population, particularly for individuals with chronic diseases.

While it is an uncertain time for our nation’s health, and we’re only beginning to see the ripple effects of gaps in treatment for chronic diseases, our aim is always to care for the patients we serve, especially the most vulnerable. That’s why we’re trying to help educate all Americans about the importance of maintaining treatment for chronic disease, dispel fears preventing people from going to the hospital or doctor’s office, and provide key resources and tools for patients and health care providers alike. The National Medical Association and other community-focused organizations can serve as trusted resources and deliver this message to underserved populations.

We all have a role to play in combating the health inequities that have plagued our underserved communities for many years. The impacts of COVID-19 have placed a bright light on that mission over the last few months and have made that work even more important.

A close-up photo of a nurse, wearing bright blue scrubs, holding the hand of patient.
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Heart At Work: Jackie DeJesus

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Jackie DeJesus, wearing a headset and working on a laptop computer in her home office.

Undaunted by COVID-19, Jackie used the reach of CVS to get our member the medication he needed. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, LorenName changed for privacy purposes. thought he would be OK if he just followed the CDC guidelines and stayed home. Even though Loren never contracted COVID-19, his health was eventually impacted by the pandemic. Luckily, his case manager, Jackie, came to his rescue and quickly worked across CVS Health to provide a solution.

Loren has a history of psoriatic arthritis, among other health concerns, and was taking hydroxychloroquine to control his painful symptoms. He had been using his local pharmacy to fill his medications. But after hydroxychloroquine was named as a potential treatment for COVID-19, his pharmacy told him that they had exhausted their supply and couldn’t get any more. Not knowing what else to do, Loren began rationing his medication and eventually ran out too.

Jackie DeJesus, a registered nurse case manager on the Clinical Services Care Management team reached out to Loren because she saw he was prescribed hydroxychloroquine and heard there were shortages. “He was so happy to hear from us. He was very worried that his arthritis and skin conditions would quickly worsen and, because of the pandemic, didn’t feel like he had any choices,” said Jackie. “Loren didn’t feel safe shopping around for his medication since he was following quarantine protocols, and even if he located the medication at another pharmacy, he was concerned about the safety of leaving his community.”

Jackie explained to Loren that we had dedicated CVS pharmacists who can help. She worked with Caremark customer service to not only locate the medication, but also set up a 90-day mail order delivery right to his home.

Within 48 hours, Loren started taking his prescribed dosage and was better able to control his painful symptoms. He’s now aware of the Caremark mail order option and is excited to use it for all his medications during the pandemic and beyond. He is also thrilled to have Jackie as his personal contact.

Karen Lynch said, “The Aetna case managers provide a tremendous opportunity to connect with our members and identify solutions even when they don’t know those options exist. In this case, we not only helped a member overcome physical pain, we worked across CVS Health to simplify his access to care.”

Thank you, Jackie, for bringing your heart to work to help your patients when they need it most.

Jackie DeJesus, wearing a headset and working on a laptop computer in her home office.
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