The School of Public Health partners with BCBSRI to create the Rhode Island Life Index

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), through a partnership with the Brown University School of Public Health (Brown), today unveiled a report summarizing a new data resource – the RI Life Index – based on interviews conducted with more than 2,200 Rhode Islanders about life factors influencing health and well-being in the state. 

The survey results, representing Rhode Islanders’ perceptions about their own health and well-being, as well as that of their community, offer a first-of-its-kind, unique window into what state residents believe to be significant challenges as well as community strengths.

The RI Life Index showed strengths in the following areas: availability of safe and reliable transportation; access to affordable, nutritious food; availability and quality of civic, social, and healthcare services for seniors and the ability to age in place; and programs and services available for children. In contrast, respondents had lower perceptions of the availability of quality affordable housing, job opportunities and job training programs.

“At Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, our vision to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island was the impetus for creating this index. As a proud local company celebrating 80 years, we are committed to building a healthier Rhode Island,” said Kim Keck, BCBSRI president and CEO. “The RI Life Index confirms something we’ve seen reported at the national level – when it comes to health outcomes and overall well-being, zip code is more important than genetic code. Where people are born and live in Rhode Island has a profound impact on their lives.”

Keck continued, “Using the RI Life Index data as a foundation, for the first time in our company history we will launch BlueAngel Community Health Grants (BACHG) focused on housing, complementing our existing philanthropic investments.”

BCBSRI unveiled the RI Life Index at an event that included remarks from Keck and Bess Marcus, Ph.D., dean of the Brown School of Public Health. Melissa Clark, Ph.D., professor of health services, policy, and practice, and director of the Survey Research Center at the School of Public Health, presented the RI Life Index and talked about the research she and her team conducted.

“The School of Public Health worked to develop and ensure the highest quality data collection for the Life Index survey in order to capture the perceptions of health and well-being from Rhode Islanders,” said Clark. “As many residents of Rhode Island already know, social determinants of health, such as the cost of housing and employment issues, often make it incredibly challenging for many families to experience the highest quality of health and well-being.”

The event also featured a panel discussion, moderated by Matt Collins, M.D., MBA, BCBSRI chief medical officer and executive vice president. Panelists included: Ada Amobi, M.D., MPH, physician lead, Health Equity Institute, Rhode Island Department of Health; Angela Bannerman Ankoma, executive vice president, director of Community Investment, United Way of Rhode Island; Carrie Bridges Feliz, MPH, director, Lifespan Community Health Institute; and Mathew Johnson, Ph.D., associate dean, engaged scholarship & executive director, Howard R. Swearer Center for Public Service.

The RI Life Index survey was conducted in April and May 2019 with randomly selected Rhode Island residents from across the state. The survey, conducted by telephone or on the web, focused on social determinants of health, as well as topic areas specific to older adults, children, social integration and access to healthcare. The survey also asked about the opioid epidemic, access to mental health and substance use treatment, discrimination in healthcare and emergency room use.

Using the data, percent of the possible (POP) scores were created for various aspects of health and well-being in a community. This allowed for the combination of multiple indicators into a single score, allowing for easier observation of targeted areas for improvement, as well as community strengths. Scores ranging from 0 to 100 show how close the community is to the ideal, with a higher POP score indicating moving toward a healthier community. Scores were also determined factoring in geography, age and income.

“The Rhode Island Life Index is truly a data resource, one that will guide us in how we assist boots-on-the-ground organizations in their essential work to improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders,” said Keck. “This is just the beginning. Armed with our vision and these data, BCBSRI will develop new approaches – and strengthen existing programs – to address health disparities and gaps in health outcomes. And that effort will start by directing our BACHG competitive grant program to support initiatives that result in more Rhode Islanders being able to access safe, healthy and stable housing in 2020.”