How can we improve the health of millennials? Independence Blue Cross tunes in

Published May 16, 2019

The most recent Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® found that millennials are less healthy than the previous generation, Gen X, was at the same age. One-third of millennials have health conditions that reduce their quality of life, including substantially higher diagnosis rates for conditions that can negatively impact their health well into the future like hypertension and type II diabetes.

This is a big problem, not only for the generation that, according to Pew Research, will soon be the largest living generation in the country, but also for the healthcare industry treating them.

Asking Questions

To better understand what’s driving these negative health trends—and what can be done to improve the healthcare system for everyone—Independence Blue Cross (Independence) collaborated with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) to host the first session in a nationwide millennial health listening tour, held in its hometown, Philadelphia, Pa., on April 25.

Joined by healthcare practitioners and leaders, medical students, digital influencers and millennials themselves, Independence asked three big questions:

  1. Is the healthcare system offering millennials what they need to stay healthy?
  2. Can digital tools better engage millennials in their health?
  3. What role do employers have in moving the needle?

Getting Answers

The clinicians and professionals in attendance “were alarmed, but not shocked by the report,” says Mark Talluto, BCBSA Vice President of Strategy and Analytics. “They were actually noticing this on their own, within their practices. We heard a lot of their stories, and shared theories as to why.”

It didn’t take long for attendees to conclude that the current health system doesn’t appear to be working for millennials—and it will take a lot more than another app to fix it. Instead, millennials want care that is welcoming, convenient and integrated.

Some of the key lessons that attendees walked away with include:

  • Meet them where they are. Millennials aren’t looking for another app, but they do want to own their own health records and have access to more convenient care from a variety of channels, including telemedicine.
  • Address their mental and physical needs. Millennials are disproportionately affected by behavioral health conditions. They want their health to be addressed in a holistic approach that integrates both mind and body.
  • Create a welcoming environment. Millennials want care from health providers they can trust to understand their culture, race, socioeconomic status, and sexual and gender identity.
  • Evolve the workplace. Millennials want comprehensive education and ongoing engagement in their employers’ wellness programs. They also seek a work environment that is poised to address behavioral health and its underlying issues without stigma.

What’s Next

The Independence listening session was the first of several to take place across the country in the upcoming months. While declining millennial health is a national problem, there are clear, state-to-state variances that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies hope to learn from. 

Following the listening tour, the conversation will move back to Philadelphia on Nov. 6 for a National Conference on Millennial Health, co-hosted by Independence and BCBSA. Key findings from all the listening sessions will drive the agenda for an audience of healthcare stakeholders, community and political leaders and millennials—with the aim of improving the health of this generation.

“The goal is to learn why millennials are dissatisfied with the health system, fix it, and make positive changes that will benefit everyone,” says Talluto.

Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.