Measuring health to improve it: An introduction to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index

Published November 29, 2016

To improve the health of America, we first need to understand the health of America.

There is much truth in the familiar saying “what gets measured, gets done.” It reminds us that measuring something can help us achieve our goals. We see this in practice all around us – in the workplace, the classroom, at home and of course, in healthcare. As health data and technology continue to make measurement easier over time, we know that a data-driven healthcare system is essential to understanding where we are — and where we need to go — to improve the health of America.

Today, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association launched the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health IndexSM— a first-of-its-kind measurement of health for nearly every county across the United States. Powered by de-identified data from more than 40 million members insured by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies, it explores the impact of 200 different diseases and conditions on the health and well-being of individuals and their communities. Using this information, the BCBS Health IndexSM can explore, down to the county level, and help identify the top five diseases in each community and their impact on local residents’ health.

Health Index Map


The BCBS Health IndexSM can also be used to uncover trends at the macro level. In fact, it tells us that among the 40 million BCBS commercially insured members, five conditions cause nearly a third of this population’s reduction in health. They are: (1) depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, (2) hypertension, (3) diabetes, (4) high cholesterol and (5) substance abuse.

Better health, better economy

An analysis of the BCBS Health IndexSM by Moody’s Analytics also finds a direct link between healthy people and a healthy economy, with healthier counties having lower unemployment and higher incomes.

“The BCBS Health IndexSM proves that health and economic vitality go hand in hand,” according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Health Index
Better health, better economy: Counties in the top 10% of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index had $3,700 higher per capita income and 3.5% higher 10-year economic growth.

With these insights at their fingertips, policymakers, community leaders, healthcare professionals and business leaders can make powerful, data-driven changes to improve America’s overall health. For instance, the BCBS Health IndexSM can provide a better understanding of how healthcare resources should be allocated, where public health initiatives can have the greatest impact, and where access to primary care and preventive services is needed most.

To learn more about your community, visit the BCBS Health IndexSMhere.