I’m an emergency room doctor by background, and anyone who has worked clinically knows the impact of social factors on people’s lives. What does it mean to prescribe an antibiotic to a patient if he or she doesn’t have insurance, or even a home? Or, what does it mean to continuously prescribe asthma medication for a child who is constantly surrounded by cigarette smoke, pollution, or other allergens? It’s clear how social needs play a critical role in total health. And from my first day at Anthem two months ago, I’ve been inspired by Anthem’s opportunity and commitment to harness our extraordinary assets to address these social drivers and improve health.
Building on our legacy of commitment to communities , and our vision to enable a system of health, not just healthcare, I’m proud that today the Anthem Foundation is launching an innovative effort in our headquarters city – in collaboration with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Indianapolis, a leading local advocate – that will help us re-think our food system from the ground up. We’ve committed $2.45M over three years to increase equitable food access and food security in one Indianapolis community, with the goal of uncovering insights that could be applied more broadly.
LISC Indianapolis will facilitate selection of the neighborhood through an open and inclusive process. And the community itself will determine which food projects will be supported, launched or expanded, with an emphasis on those that improve economic mobility and help build racial equity.
Food security is the most commonly reported unmet social need in the United States – with nearly 40% of households reporting moderate to high levels of food insecurity. Its impact is felt in every community across the country; however, the crisis is far worse in certain communities, with significant disparity experienced just miles apart.
For instance, in central Indiana alone, Marion County experiences childhood food insecurity at nine percent higher rates than neighboring Hamilton County. This disparity, fueled by access to nutritious food and underpinned by race, ethnic, and economic differences, leads to significant disparities in health outcomes – and underlines why a broad and systemic approach to solving food access and security is required. Anthem’s Close to Home tool, which maps publicly available food insecurity data in every zip code in America, helps put the scale of this crisis into context, and tracks the drivers of disparity.
Ridding the country of pressing issues like food access and security will require bold ideas and collaboration. We know we cannot successfully reduce healthcare costs and improve the health of our consumers unless we partner across the healthcare ecosystem to address the realities of people’s lives. It’s these factors that make the difference when it comes to good health.
As a community connector and partner, we are excited about what’s ahead. We look forward to sharing our journey with you here over the next three years –insights and lessons, alike – as we create change where health happens: in our communities.