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Empire BlueCross BlueShield Announces Release of State Health Index Data
Date:11/14/2007

New York Ranks 27th Nationwide in Health Status

NEW YORK, Nov. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Empire BlueCross BlueShield today published its new State Health Index, a set of measures that incorporates public health data to identify and help address major health issues in New York. Empire has assembled a dedicated team to collaborate with health care providers, local and state officials, as well as community organizations, to better understand the reasons behind prevalent health deficiencies and to, more importantly, develop collaborative solutions aimed at improving overall health in the state.

Developed from data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the State Health Index ranks New York 27th in the nation based on a comprehensive assessment of 23 measures of health status. While addressing all 23 measures, Empire will initially focus on eight of these measures having the greatest impact on New York:

Prenatal Care in First Trimester Physical Activity Levels

Low Birthweight Infant Rate Cigarette Smoking Rate

Adult Influenza Immunization Rate Diabetes in Adult Population

Adult Pneumococcal Immunization Rate Heart Disease Death Rate

According to state health index data compiled by the CDC, New Yorkers rank 43rd in the heart disease death rate (deaths per 100,000 residents caused by coronary heart disease) and 23rd in the cigarette smoking rate (percentage of adults in the state who smoke cigarettes).

"While this kind of data is fairly well known, the difference here is that the largest insurer in New York City and New York State has committed to invest in provider and community health initiatives in cooperation with local and state officials to measurably improve these results over the next five to ten years," said Mark Wagar, president and CEO, Empire BlueCross BlueShield. "We believe that we will have the most impact if we combine forces with local partners to identify and address New York's public health priorities. Our State Health Index will provide a roadmap to guide our work to improve the overall health of our state and allow anyone to track our progress."

In addition to working with extensive networks of physicians, hospitals and other providers, Empire has begun to reach out to many diverse community organizations that can help bring health improvement messages to local boroughs and communities in a more effective manner. This includes working with local schools on health, wellness and exercise programs, community health centers familiar with populations at greater risk and partnering with various established city and state initiatives already underway.

East Harlem is an example of a neighborhood that is significantly impacted by these target health care issues and faces a number of obstacles to obtaining healthcare. Boriken Neighborhood Health Center in East Harlem demonstrates a local provider that Empire has begun to partner with to provide programs to the community it serves.

"We are pleased to have partnered with Empire to offer this program. For over 40 years, Boriken Neighborhood Health Center has been committed to offering quality and affordable health care to residents of East Harlem," said Ellie Sanchez, CEO of the East Harlem Council for Human Services, Inc. "This is a great example of how health insurers and providers can work together to create positive change in the health of a community."

"The guiding measures we have selected for our State Health Index provide a broad snapshot of New York's overall health," said John Whitney, M.D. who co-leads Empire's State Health Index efforts along with Wagar. "Our State Heath Index will serve as a tangible scorecard of the most pressing health issues, which will enable us to work with local and state officials and health care providers to design programs that will improve health across our state."

The State Health Index is a companion program to Empire's Member Health Index, an initiative announced earlier this year through which Empire uses the data it collects on its own members to track its progress in helping to improve the quality of health care they receive as well as health outcomes.

"Together, these innovative programs clearly demonstrate Empire's commitment to measurably improving the lives of its members and the health of its communities, said Angela F. Braly, president and CEO of WellPoint, Inc., Empire's parent company. "Our company has made an unprecedented commitment to improving health on both the member and state levels, and we have set goals that are both ambitious and transparent. We look forward to using initiatives such as our Member and State Health Indices to drive innovation in the industry and help improve health care across the United States."

About Empire BlueCross BlueShield

Empire BlueCross BlueShield (Empire) is the trade name of Empire HealthChoice Assurance, Inc., and Empire BlueCross BlueShield HMO is the trade name of Empire HealthChoice HMO, Inc., independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, serving residents and businesses in the 28 eastern and southeastern counties of New York State. Empire BlueCross BlueShield, the largest health insurer in New York State based on PPO and HMO membership, is a subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE: WLP), whose mission is to improve the lives of the people it serves and the health of its communities. It is the largest publicly traded commercial health benefits company in terms of membership in the United States, and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and serves its members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as Empire BlueCross BlueShield in 10 New York City metropolitan counties and as Empire BlueCross or Empire BlueCross BlueShield in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the city of Fairfax, the town of Vienna and the area east of State route 123), Wisconsin; and through UniCare. Additional information about Empire is available at http://www.empireblue.com.


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SOURCE Empire BlueCross BlueShield
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