Building a More Equitable and Just Future from the Heart of Indy

By Bryony Winn, President, Anthem Health Solutions

Indianapolis is a special place. For Anthem, Inc., it’s the hometown to our headquarters and 5,000 of our employees. What’s more, it’s the heartbeat of our commitment to improving the whole health of our communities. This is what makes our work with Business Equity for Indy (BEI) so central to me and my colleagues at Anthem. To improve whole health, we must address health equity meaningfully. We explore many factors that may impact health equity, including race and ethnicity, access to care, gender identity, disabilities, and sexual orientation. BEI provides a place for us to partner with leaders from across the region to advance a fairer and more inclusive future for the region’s Black population and other people of color.

A look at local community statistics here in Indy illustrates the task before us:

· COVID-19 vaccination rates for Black residents of Marion County are behind the overall rate for the county

· One-third of Black Marion County residents live in a food desert, and Black residents face a hunger rate 50% higher than the city’s general population

· Marion County’s Black infant mortality rate is nearly double the national rate

· Symptoms of depression are reported more frequently among Black and Hispanic/Latino people

We have a business and moral imperative to take real action to make society more just. It’s on all of us to address this disparity. Bottom line: our individual health is tied to the health of our community, so it’s our collective responsibility to make the change that’s needed. There is amazing work happening to tackle some of these issues, and it gives me confidence in the change we can drive together. Let me walk you through some of the highlights:

1. BEI’s Impediments to Health Taskforce: BEI has created several taskforces to tackle complex challenges including hiring & promotions, Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) procurement & participation, learning & talent, impediments to health, and public policy. Our CEO, Gail Boudreaux, is co-chairing the Impediments to Health Taskforce, where a group of leaders from across our community will work to improve areas including vaccinations, healthy food, infant/maternal health, and mental health. After all, where we live, our financial circumstances, our access to affordable, nutritious foods, and other non-medical factors overwhelmingly influence our health. Anthem’s recent study called Driving Our Health looked at the social drivers of health with the recognition that they determine up to 80% of our health outcomes. Social drivers of health include our financial circumstances, our access to affordable, nutritious foods, and other non-medical factors overwhelmingly influence our health. Our study found that nearly half of Americans (46%) are unaware of the concept of social drivers of health. If we want to improve the health of people in our communities, we need to deepen the understanding of these social drivers and all the factors that comprise whole health.

2. Indy Racial Equity Pledge: Anthem, Inc., together with a local coalition of 22 corporate and civic organizations, signed this pledge to hold our organizations accountable for driving measurable progress in advancing racial equity for African Americans in Central Indiana. I love it that we can build something that works with this community, and then through the scale of our collective organizations, we can take our key learnings and expand them for the benefit of communities across the country. Anthem, for example, has our home base here, but through our family of health plans, we reach more than 45 million people.

3. Best Practices Playbook: In partnership with the Indy Chamber, Indiana University (IU) Fairbanks School of Public Health, and IU Kelley School of Business, BEI’s Impediments to Health Taskforce is leading the charge in bringing together best practices to improve employee equity and health outcomes across the region. I am encouraged that this work will create both immediate and sustainable change for racial equity for our community.

I joined the Indianapolis community about two years ago when I relocated for my role here at Anthem, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work on initiatives that support health equity for people in Indiana.

Each of the organizations involved with BEI and the pledge is working on equity from different angles, and if we all bring our learnings to the table, we can build a more equitable and just future, starting at the heart of our community. I hope this blog will spark conversation and ideas, and I look forward to continuing our engagement with this amazing group of leaders. Please feel free to reach out to me or any of the leaders from the Anthem team to talk about health equity and what we can do to drive change together!

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