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From housing to jobs, insurers are investing in programs to help support a healthy lifestyle

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In Episode 8, we hear from Kate Berry, senior vice president of clinical innovation with America’s Health Insurance Plans, the national association whose members provide coverage for health care and related services to millions of Americans.  

Berry, who has 30 years of experience in healthcare, oversees clinical programs such as chronic disease prevention and management, and she works with AHIP member health plans to highlight their innovative programs in areas including behavioral health, women’s health, diabetes prevention, asthma management, telehealth and the social determinants of health.

Read part of the conversation, here, then listen to the entire podcast.

From the payer vantage point, there are ways to affect change with respect to health and health care. Could you say more about the role of the payer and what you think some of the key contributions that can be made from this part of the system?

We know that a person’s health is influenced by many non-medical factors, called social determinants of health — where a person lives, grows, learns and works. 

These determinants really play a significant role in a person’s ability to make healthy choices, to access quality health care and to live a healthy life. So social determinants of health and addressing health disparities and promoting health equity are major priorities across the entire healthcare system. 

And with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has really further highlighted the importance of behavioral health needs. We know that all Americans are experiencing much more anxiety, depression, and stress. 

All those things are really also affecting people’s fear of illness, potentially the grief loss, the economic impact on businesses, communities and individuals, and all the uncertainty around all of this. So, health insurers can play a really important role to promote prevention and wellness to address the social determinants of health. 

What some ways that AHIP bringing together health plans and working on some of the big issues that we’re facing in health and healthcare?

One is Project Link, which is our major initiative around addressing the social determinants of health. We have a number of resources that we’ve developed to engage with stakeholders, policy makers, and others, to help them understand why the social determinants of health are so important to health insurers. As part of Project Link, we convene our health plan members to discuss some of their best practices and innovative programs around addressing the social determinants and also to identify some of the shared challenges that they’re facing, and try to come up with ways to address those challenges.

And then, because we’re a trade association, we work hard to develop policy recommendations and advocacy strategies that really have a broader way of addressing the social determinants of health. 

Building capacity of community-based organizations is one of those things that we advocate for because they are such critical partners. We want to have strong partners for health insurers to be able to meet the needs of the people that they serve.

Kate Berry is senior vice president of clinical innovation with America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) based in Washington, D.C. AHIP is the national association whose members provide coverage for health care and related services to millions of Americans. She oversees clinical programs such as chronic disease prevention and management and works with AHIP member health plans to highlight innovative programs in areas including behavioral health, women’s health, asthma management, telehealth, and the social determinants of health.

Are there any aspects of that work or that initiative that you’re especially excited about or hopeful about right now?

Some health plans have programs to help people build skills and find both education and employment opportunities. These are things that people might not expect to hear that health insurance plans actually invest in. And folks might also be surprised to hear that health insurance plans actually are investing in housing programs — not having stable, affordable housing has a major impact on people’s health. 

Listen to the rest of the conversation on the Good World, Better Health podcast.

To learn more about Project Link, click here.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

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