Globally, many organizations are pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, but what that work entails varies from company to company. For Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), it is a data-focused lens we apply to achieve our business objectives. It’s not jargon or a buzzword, but actionable work to strengthen North Carolina.
Our company’s purpose is to improve the health and well-being of our customers and communities – we won’t stop until health care is better for all. Achieving health equity is fundamentally connected to our work to make health care better for all.
We don’t have that – yet. Nationally, North Carolina’s overall health consistently ranks in the bottom third of U.S. Even though NC has some of the top hospitals in the nation and our state houses research hubs and universities that help drive our nation’s medical innovation, in 2020 we ranked 36 of 50 states. While many North Carolinians receive high-quality health care, we are guided by the belief that all North Carolinians should.
Our DEI-driven work reduces some of the most harmful and costly disparities in health outcomes. One of the fundamental misperceptions about DEI is that it only helps some groups. In truth, our DEI-driven work benefits all, because a healthier state lowers health care costs for everyone.
We’ve understood the importance of and need for dedicated DEI work for more than 15 years. But we, like so many organizations, took a more serious inventory of our approaches and outcomes in the summer of 2020.
Our approach, led by our CEO Tunde Sotunde, MD, MBA, FAAP, evolved to a new level of intentionality. Our work has expanded wider and dug deeper, drawing input from every division throughout our company. Rather than leaving a single DEI office or department to operate in isolation, we set up a DEI Council to provide oversight, leadership and strategic alignment for enterprise-wide initiatives that advance diversity, equity and inclusion.
One of the fundamental misperceptions about DEI is that it only helps some groups. In truth, our DEI-driven work benefits all, because a healthier state lowers health care costs for everyone.
Our DEI Council is currently focused on these areas:
More detailed goals, work in-flight and preliminary results on these can be found here.
To operate with intentionality is to listen. To reflect. To evaluate. To reassess. To commit. And that’s what we are doing. We are looking at our work in new ways across our organization, so each employee asks themselves, “How is this serving North Carolina?”
We’ve stuck by all 100 counties of our great state since 1933. But supporting each county with a one-size-fits-all approach will not help us achieve affordable and accessible health care. We’re focused on the best, and different, ways to support the unique needs in each individual community.
We are listening to employees, members, communities, legislators, business leaders, suppliers, agents and providers for a full view of the health care needs of our state. These conversations get to the essence of DEI. The Diversity Journal defines “inclusion” as, “creating an environment of involvement, respect and connection where the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are harnessed to create value.” Ongoing engagement with stakeholders across the state helps us identify new opportunities and areas for improvement. That creates value for everyone.
Supporting each county with a one-size-fits-all approach will not help us achieve affordable and accessible health care.
Ongoing engagement with stakeholders across the state helps us identify new opportunities and areas for improvement. That creates value for everyone.
We gather insights by listening to different perspectives from all backgrounds – race, age, ethnicity, gender identity, disability, geography (urban, rural, suburban), socioeconomic status and more. Through our Extra Miles Tour, Black maternal health equity focus groups, our employee networks and other forums, we listen to a diverse array of perspectives and learn about our members’ lived experiences in the health care system. All of this information guides our work whenever we launch a new product, update a medical policy, establish a new collaboration with a community organization or write a communication.
This sense of intentionality drives our collaboration and accountability. We understand that it’s not enough for a company to express their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion on social media. We must establish goals. We must measure the impact of our work.
That’s why our DEI efforts require everyone across the enterprise to work toward similar goals, and why our operational structure provides plenty of opportunities for our team to learn from one another. Through our metrics and dashboards, we keep accountability front and center.
True commitment to DEI demands accountability, and Blue Cross NC is truly committed. The voices of our employees drive all this work. Ultimately, we are accountable to all North Carolinians – and to ourselves. We won’t stop until health care is better for all.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in its health programs and activities. Learn more about our non-discrimination policy and no-cost services available to you.
© 2023 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. ®, SM Marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. Blue Cross NC is an abbreviation for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.