BUFFALO – As Western New York gears up for phase two of the Buffalo Billion, a new audiocast from BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York draws attention to a relatively unknown, yet impactful driver of economic prosperity – the health of the community.
The free episode titled "Does Healthy Equal Wealthy? The Data Says…" discusses a new report conducted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Moody's Analytics that confirms healthier counties across America experience lower unemployment, higher incomes and stronger economic growth.
The episode features comments from David Pizza, Managing Director of Health Care Analytics for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, who explains the data that was used, how this can be leveraged, and where Western New York fits into a first-of-its-kind health measurement tool, the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Health Index.
"This information reinforces the point that health matters," Pizza said in the episode. "Health matters in people's lives beyond just simply making their lives more convenient or helping them feel better; it matters in terms of their pocketbook."
The BCBS Health Index, powered by de-identified data of more than 40 million commercially insured members of BCBS companies, compares counties across America by assigning an index score of 0 to 1 and provides the top five conditions that prevent reaching their optimum health.
The eight counties of Western New York collectively maintain a health index score of .924; relatively on par with the national median score of .92. Based on the Moody's "Healthy People, Healthy Economy" report, when compared to counties with a median BCBS Health Index result, counties within the top 10 percent had:
- A per capita income of $3,700 higher
- A 10-year economic growth of 3.5 percent higher
- An unemployment rate half a point lower
According to the index, the top five conditions with the most adverse impact on the health of Western New Yorkers are:
- Substance Use
- Depression, Anxiety and Mood Disorders
- High Cholesterol
The audiocast and report come on the heels of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings, which showed Western New York lagged behind other New York Counties based on health outcomes and factors which include obesity, smoking and access to healthy foods.
While the BCBS health index relies on health care experience data vs. outcomes and environmental factors, both point to opportunities, particularly around substance use, to improve the region's physical health and help support further economic growth.
To listen to this Point of Health episode, as well as past and future free episodes, visit bcbswny.com/pointofhealth. Episodes are hosted by Julie R. Snyder, BlueCross BlueShield's Vice President, Corporate Relations and posted bi-monthly.