You might not know this, but the Blue Cross Foundation was originally called “The Caring for Children Program.” It helped make sure all Louisiana children had access to healthcare through health insurance.

While much has changed over the last 28 years, we’ve kept our focus on supporting the health and lives of Louisiana’s children through grant programs and the Angel Award.  I’m optimistic about what the future holds as more partners come together to make systemic investments in overcoming barriers to a better life for our kids.  I’m particularly inspired by communities where folks are working to weave together programs and services that were once siloed to ensure that kids get the support and care they need to grow up strong.

As an example: last week, we joined our partners from the Health and Education Alliance of Louisiana (HEAL) at Mildred Osbourne Charter School.  Together, we announced a grant of $300,000 to expand HEAL’s program “Coordinated Care for the Whole Child,” to more schools across southern Louisiana over the last three years.

HEAL’s “Whole Child” programming supports schools by providing healthcare expertise for students in need. Much of HEAL’s work involves providing health screenings, such as vision screenings to determine if students are in need of glasses.  HEAL then works with schools to create plans to meet student education and health needs.  HEAL helps school leaders access Medicaid dollars to get support services for children who qualify, so that services can be provided to children without any additional cost to schools.

Stated another way, HEAL enables schools to access a unique set of resources they are otherwise leaving on the table to meet their students health needs, all while keeping more dollars to also support their educational needs and while catching substantive health issues earlier and getting kids the supportive care they need.

In schools where HEAL supports students, GPAs rise between 25 and 60 percent.  In 2018, the Blue Cross Foundation funded an expansion of Whole Child programs beyond New Orleans to include schools in Tangipahoa Parish.  To date, the program has screened 45,000 children and schools have seen increases in school performance, attendance and other measures of student engagement.

In the context of social determinants of health, HEAL is a great example of how the symptoms we see — such as kids who are struggling to keep up, or are displaying behavioral or attention issues — are often expressions of an underlying issue.

Constance Belone, the CEO of HEAL, puts it best: “HEAL has worked in schools where as many as half of the students failed basic vision screenings.  “Correcting health issues like that can make a world of difference for a student with a simple, treatable health barrier.”

We’re believe in programs like HEAL, and are confident that they will make a meaningful change for students, enabling them to live better, healthier lives. And we’re always interested in hearing from partnerships and programs that are working to improve the health and lives of Louisiana’s children. If you know of an organization doing this work that we aren’t already partnering with, send us a note.