By Laura Kaslow - Sr. PR Specialist | Digital & Social Engagement

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Blue Cross honors leadership of Patsy Riley with creation of health equity award

December 20, 2017

A cornerstone of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s strategic commitment to healthy communities is centered in our work to advance health equity. A champion of this work has been Patsy Riley, who held the title of senior vice president of government market solutions and chief government officer for many years. Riley is retiring from Blue Cross at the end of this year.

In honor of Riley’s leadership, which significantly advanced healthy equity, diversity and inclusiveness at Blue Cross, the company created the Patsy Riley Health Equity and Diversity Award. Riley was named the inaugural recipient of the award earlier this month.

At Blue Cross, health equity is defined as what’s achieved when all people, regardless of race, income, ZIP code or other factors, have opportunities to live the healthiest lives possible.

“By always thinking of the members she serves first, Patsy’s vision shaped how we approach health equity at Blue Cross,” said Paula Phillippe, senior vice president of human resources and corporate social responsibility. “Patsy has an internal compass that keeps all people at the forefront. She has often brought additional perspective to conversations for those whose voice may not be strong.”

A journey, not a race, to create a health equity strategy

Riley spent 11 years at Blue Cross, and has been active in leading health equity work since her first day with the company.  We shared Riley’s take on why health equity is a critical business priority for Blue Cross in this blog post.

“Patsy has been a long‐term champion for health equity work at Blue Cross,” Phillippe said. “She has the unique intersection point of leading a business line that serves those who may face barriers along with developing internal people and systems to champion good health for all our members.”

From the beginning, Riley realized that successfully integrating a health equity strategy would take time and patience. “This work is a journey not a race,” she said.

A strategic focus on health equity

Her commitment to the journey has paid off. Health equity is now a key component of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota strategic plan.

“When we launched our newest strategic plan, Blue Cross deliberately elevated its strategic focus on healthy communities as a key driver of health outcomes, and within that advancing health equity,” said Blue Cross CEO Michael Guyette. “In support of this focus, we have integrated our diversity and inclusion work into the health equity initiative.”

“This strategy is embedded into our business practices because when we align our organization in support of healthy communities, including health equity, we can make a greater impact for the members and communities we serve,” Guyette said.

“We recognize that an intentional focus on health equity is very important to achieving the best health for all our members and for the future success of Blue Cross.”

“When we align our organization in support of healthy communities, including health equity, we can make a greater impact for the members and communities we serve.”

2017 was a year of major accomplishments

During 2017, a significant body of work developed under Patsy’s health equity vision came to fruition. This includes Blue Cross’ first celebration of health equity month in April, a series of trainings that advanced health equity and racial understanding among employees, and facilitated sessions that allowed interested employees to become either a health literacy coach and/or racial justice facilitator.

This internal focus is designed to integrate how Blue Cross serves the broader community, implementing programs that deliver to the specific cultural, income, or geographical needs of our members and communities that promote member and population health.

“I am incredibly proud of the immense amount of progress made in the last year,” Riley said. “I’m thrilled to see this work now being integrated throughout our business practices, allowing us to achieve and leverage so much more as an organization.”

A long-term commitment to health equity

As part of an ongoing commitment to health equity, each year the Patsy Riley Health Equity and Diversity Award will be given to a Blue Cross employee who has done substantial work advancing health equity, diversity and inclusion.

“I’m so thrilled that one of Patsy’s significant contributions prior to retiring was building Blue Cross’ health equity policy,” Phillippe said.  “This is the perfect culmination reflecting her personal beliefs, her professional championship for all members and building a system that will be her legacy as it lives on and evolves the organization.”

 The 2018 nominee is scheduled to receive their award in April as part of Blue Cross’ Health Equity Month celebration.

About Patsy Riley
Since joining Blue Cross in 2006, Patsy has contributed her skills and talents to numerous internal and external initiatives. She served as Executive Sponsor of the Asian Circle employee resource group, and has been an active board member of the Northern Plains Alliance, ClearStone Solutions, MN Council of Health Plans and several Blue Cross Association committees and work groups. In 2014, Patsy was selected as one of the top “35 Women in Healthcare” in Minnesota by the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST. She was also recognized as one of the top “25 Industry Leaders” by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in 2007 and a top woman business leader in 2016.

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