Creating access to care for women and girls, from Wyoming to Detroit

Published May 7, 2014

When it comes to healthcare, women require a unique set of services.  Women’s health needs vary widely from that of their male counterparts, and the difference goes beyond pregnancy and childbirth. Many women might not know they are more susceptible to certain kinds of disease, like osteoporosis and depression, or that more American women die of heart disease or suffer a stroke than men each year.

Most health plans are now required to cover preventive health services that address women’s unique needs, like mammograms and well-woman visits, but in certain areas women lack access to these services. Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies in two such places, Wyoming and Detroit, have taken action on this issue as part of The Blues® nationwide commitment to creating healthier communities- The Power of Blue.

In Wyoming, the state found itself facing one of the lowest breast cancer screening rates in the nation. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming set out to change that through the Caring for Women program.  The Caring for Women program aims to increase screening rates across the state by providing a wellness visit, mammogram and pap smear to eligible women.  The services are provided by a statewide network of healthcare professionals who agree to accept reduced fees as payment in full for services provided to the women participating in the program.  The program has served thousands of Wyoming women since 2001.

In addition, Susan G. Komen and General Electric dedicated resources in partnership with the Caring for Women program and other statewide organizations and providers to introduce Wyoming Women First, an initiative that aims to improve breast cancer outcomes.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan turned its attention to a different demographic: the homeless and high-risk girls and young women in the streets of Detroit.  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation awarded a grant to Alternatives for Girls, a community-based, nonprofit organization that provides safe shelter, street outreach and educational support, vocational guidance, mentoring, prevention activities and counseling for the young women.  The program is designed to address both the immediate and long-term needs of the young women, empower them to seek and make positive choices, and affect lasting and meaningful change in their lives.

These girls and young women face increased risk for HIV, human papillomavirus, hepatitis and tuberculosis, as well as preventable chronic conditions, and often do not have access to care. In addition, these transient and disenfranchised girls and young women are often reached only one time, which makes it difficult to establish a medical home for the coordination of care.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation grant was awarded to expand onsite healthcare services for this highly vulnerable and largely uninsured population.  It will address immediate medical and survival needs; provide basic healthcare screening services, offer disease screening and testing, initial health assessments and referrals, and follow up with an ongoing “medical home” and primary care provider – something many of these girls have never had.

The Foundation partnered with the Detroit-based Metro Health Foundation and the Jewish Fund, located in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., in funding this program.

To learn more about these, or other Blue Cross Blue Shield community investments, download the full Investing in America’s Health report.