The National Business Group on Health, a non-profit group representing large U.S. employers, honored Aetna (NYSE: AET) today for an ongoing commitment to reducing health care differences in the workplace and for supporting a diverse workforce. The award for “Innovation in Reducing Health Care Disparities” was presented in Washington, DC. The honor recognizes more than 10 years of contributions, including one of Aetna’s newest programs that helps Hispanic and African-American members struggling with asthma. “We are proud of our history in advancing racial and ethnic equality in health care and of the success we are seeing with our new asthma program,” said Wayne Rawlins, M.D., national medical director, Racial and Ethnic Equity Initiative at Aetna. “The program is changing people’s lives, reducing serious asthma attacks and emergency room visits. We believe our program can be a model used throughout the country.” In 2011, Aetna introduced its asthma intervention program in Delaware. According to the National Institutes of Health, Delaware has one of the nation’s highest incidence rates of the disease, which affects Hispanics and African-Americans more than other groups. Asthma is a respiratory condition that can be life threatening. The disease affects more than 22 million people in the United States. Aetna’s two-year-old program is available to children, teens and adults with asthma covered by Delaware Physicians Care, Aetna’s Medicaid plan. The program combines clinically proven medical treatment with health education and one-on-one outreach by nurses and community health workers. The program incorporates cultural traditions and values of racial or ethnic groups to build understanding and new skills to manage asthma. Within one year, the asthma sufferers’ emergency room visits dropped by 24 percent, and their hospital stays dropped by 37 percent. “Not only were the program participants able to manage their asthma more successfully, but the costs to treat their condition also were significantly reduced through avoided emergency room and hospital costs,” Rawlins said. “We believe the use of community health workers and incentives for participation that were added to the program in 2012 will show even better results.”
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