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    Pop health project finds new ties between health, finances, location

    Population health data is establishing connections between better health and better quality of living. A March 2017 report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) found that people who are healthier live in places with lower unemployment and higher incomes.

    The report findings are based on blinded data of more than 40 million BCBSA members. Researchers looked specifically at ICD-9 diagnoses across 200 health conditions and came up with a BCBS Health Index. The index, launched in November 2016, provides health scores for U.S. counties.

    The index brings critical health insights to policymakers, community leaders, business leaders and healthcare professionals, “helping them further focus efforts to improve their communities' health," Scott Serota, president and CEO for BCBSA, said in a statement regarding the report’s findings

    Data in action

    Moody’s Analytics, a financial risk management firm, applied financial data to the BCBS Health Index to add another layer of research: how economic factors influence community health.

    In the counties that scored in the top 10% of the BCBS index, researchers found that residents made more money ($3,700 higher, per capita). Also, the counties were experiencing a 10-year economic growth of 3.5% or higher and had lower unemployment rates.

    The data “shows that health and the economy's performance go hand-in-hand," Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, said in a statement. "Policymakers can use the BCBS Health Index to better understand how health outcomes impact economic growth."

    This report is the second edition of a series that looks into the financial well-being of BCBS members. The first edition, released in November 2016, found that five health conditions are at the root of 30% of health problems for BCBS members:  

    • Depression;

    • Anxiety and other mood disorders;

    • Hypertension;

    • Diabetes;

    • High cholesterol; and

    • Substance use disorders.

    Next: Similar big data projects crop up

     

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