Cooper University Health Care has partnered with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) to deploy community health workers (CHWs) in Camden as part of an innovative program – Horizon Neighbors in Health – that is improving health, reducing inpatient hospital stays and emergency department visits, and increasing behavioral and specialty care visits by addressing social barriers to health.
“As the leading academic health system in southern New Jersey, we recognize that many complex factors are associated with the overall health of the community, and this new initiative with Horizon, the state’s largest insurer, will help us reach more Camden residents to mitigate some of those barriers to good health,” said Anthony J. Mazzarelli, MD, JC, MBE, Co-CEO of Cooper.
Horizon Neighbors in Health, developed by Horizon BCBSNJ, is the largest, most comprehensive program ever created in New Jersey to address social determinants of health. Launched in 2020 by the state’s largest health insurer, the program is investing $25 million to collaborate with some of New Jersey’s most respected health organizations over a three-year period through a model that employs local CHWs to connect members with a wide-array of services that make good health more possible. The program also relies on a personal health assistant (PHA), affiliated with Horizon, who can coordinate and respond to member questions on medical plan benefits as well as researching providers. Both the PHAs and CHWs have access to a real-time platform to manage member engagement and track individual interactions with community resources and services.
Cooper is the first health system in southern New Jersey to participate in the initiative. The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, of which Cooper is a part, also participates in the Horizon BCBSNJ initiative.
“Cooper has been in the forefront of identifying and mitigating social determinants of health for a number of years in the City of Camden,” said Kevin O’Dowd, JD, Co-CEO of Cooper. “We are happy to be working with Horizon on this great initiative and appreciate their commitment to deliver additional resources to assist Camden residents in removing barriers that are negatively impacting their health.”
“Some of our members struggle to achieve their best health because they face non-medical challenges that have typically been beyond the reach of the health care system. Horizon Neighbors in Health enables us to work together with great health care partners like Cooper to deliver personalized solutions that help address these social determinants of health for our members,” said Allen Karp, Horizon BCBSNJ’s executive vice president for Health Care Management and Transformation. “Horizon Neighbors in Health, in collaboration with Cooper Health, breaks down longstanding barriers and uses our resources, data, and advanced analytics to help address racial and ethnic health disparities in health.”
As part of the program, Cooper received a grant from Horizon to hire specially trained CHW to engage directly with high- and at-risk patients identified by Horizon BCBSNJ. The CHWs come from the communities where they will be working, a critical factor that helps build trust and understanding with the individuals the program aims to serve.
The CHWs connect individuals with organizations providing a wide array of services to address challenges hampering their health and well-being. The CHWs maintain an up-to-date inventory of services available from local social, non-profit, and community service organizations. The platform enables the CHWs to connect individuals to needed services, track utilization, document outcomes, and ensure participants are getting the assistance they need.
The initiative focuses on addressing the social determinants of health — issues related to poverty, education, the environment, race, childhood trauma, violence, and other factors — that play a role in patient wellness, according to many studies. While estimates vary, Horizon BCBSNJ said these factors account for roughly 65% of an individual’s health, with medical care impacting 35%. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many of these concerns and with thousands of state residents now out of work, more people are struggling economically.
The program in Camden is managed by Cooper’s Population Health Program and launched in Camden in April. The CHWs work with patients from two weeks up to several months – depending on the patient’s needs – and help them set goals for improving their health. The program is highly personalized and the CHWs may interact with patients in their homes, over the phone, or other community locations.
For more information about the Horizon Neighbors in Health Program, visit: https://www.horizonhealthnews.com/horizon-neighbors-in-health/.