; Blue Cross & Blue Shield Of Rhode Island Names Visael (Bobby) Rodriguez Chief Diversity Officer
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Press Release

Blue Cross & Blue Shield Of Rhode Island Names Visael (Bobby) Rodriguez Chief Diversity Officer

February 29, 2012

PROVIDENCE – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) today announced the appointment of Visael “Bobby” Rodriguez to the position of Chief Diversity Officer effective immediately.  In this newly created position, Rodriguez is responsible for assessing the internal and external environment/culture, developing and implementing strategies to attract, develop, and retain a high performing diverse workforce.  He will provide guidance and counsel to leadership regarding the integration of cultural competence into short and long term corporate business plans, and support corporate multicultural strategies.  In addition, he will be leading efforts to address healthcare disparities to improve the quality of health in lives of Rhode Island’s increasingly diverse residents.

“Language, cultural differences and low health literacy often contribute to inequities in healthcare for racial or ethnic minorities, particularly related to the treatment of chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” said Eric Gasbarro, vice president of human resources, corporate real estate and administration services.  ”Here at BCBSRI, we believe that every Rhode Islander deserves access to high quality healthcare. With Rhode Island’s minority population growing by more than 30 percent between 2000 and 2010 (1), we felt it important to create some focus around addressing the increasingly diverse healthcare needs of the community we serve.”

According to Gasbarro, Rhode Island’s various racial and ethnic communities have very different healthcare needs. Consider that 15 percent of African Americans, 14 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of American Indians suffer from adult onset diabetes, compared to only eight percent of the country’s Caucasian population (2).  African Americans are more likely to develop and die from cancer than any other racial or ethnic group (3) and Rhode Island’s Native American and African American communities have the highest rates of adult obesity (4).

“It would probably also surprise a lot of people to learn that nearly one-third of direct medical care expenditures for African Americans, Asians and Hispanics are directly related to healthcare inequalities,” continued Gasbarro.  ”In fact, between 2003 and 2006, the direct and indirect costs related to healthcare disparities totaled $1.24 trillion nationwide.  Addressing these issues here in Rhode Island provides one more opportunity to improve the quality of local healthcare and help moderate healthcare costs.”

Rodriguez joins BCBSRI from Baystate Health where he was responsible for the leadership and integration of corporate diversity and inclusion strategies for the nonprofit organization.  Earlier in his career, he held positions with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in Maryland where he spearheaded a major diversity and cultural competence initiative.  He also previously held positions at Xerox Corporation.

Rodriguez earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management and Marketing from the University of Puerto Rico.  He is a member of the Board of Directors for Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

About Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island 
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is the state’s leading health insurer and covers more than 600,000 members. The company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit BCBSRI.com and follow us on Twitter @BCBSRI.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for more than 105 million members – one-in-three Americans.  For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit bcbs.com. We encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog, for up-to-date information about BCBSA.