Finding new ways to promote health – whether it is our own health or the health of our community – is an important and complex undertaking. It often requires focus, dedication, and support from others who are committed to improving health. With the launch of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Foundation for Community & Health Advancement last year, we leveraged these key components – focus, dedication, and support from other community partners – to improve health for all Arizonans.  

LEARN MORE: Most Admired Companies: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

The Foundation formalizes our commitment to investing in the health of our state. By working alongside dedicated community partners statewide, we are better positioned to meet the evolving needs of our community.  

In its first year, the Foundation funded 88 grants totaling nearly $3 million. That is millions of dollars invested in nonprofit organizations and academic institutions to expand services and programs that promote the health and well-being of Arizonans. And there is no better investment than that. 

Dr. Christine Wiggs is president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Foundation for Community & Health Advancement.

The Foundation strengthens Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona’s philanthropic investment in the health of our state as we build on its 83-year legacy of corporate giving. The Foundation funds the efforts of changemakers who want to expand their organizations’ services and impact. The Foundation partners with organizations tackling Arizona’s most pressing, unmet health needs, specifically: 

1. Chronic health conditions 

2. Health equity   

3. Mental health 

4. Substance use disorder 

Mental health continues to be the Foundation’s flagship focus. Even before the pandemic, we knew we needed to shine the brightest spotlight on mental health because it touches everyone. According to America’s Health Rankings 2022, Arizona ranks 46th in the nation for access to mental healthcare, and rural areas are affected the most.   

One of the Foundation’s mental health grantees, Creek Valley Health Clinic in Colorado City, was recently able to save a life. The closest emergency room to this remote, rural community is hours away. An individual in an active opioid overdose went to Creek Valley Health Clinic instead where naloxone, a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of opioids, was quickly administered. After learning of this life-saving event, we got Creek Valley involved in our opioid overdose prevention campaign to provide more life-saving education and naloxone to the clinic staff. 

The cohort of grantees from Year 1 is impressive.  We joined forces with community partners providing boots on the ground outreach and service in each of Arizona’s 15 counties. Together, we were able to increase access to clean drinking water, provide access to showers and hygiene services to unhoused people, connect visually impaired individuals to mental health services, offer academic counseling to students from low-income backgrounds, prevent substance use, help people manage their diabetes, educate the public on the importance of early cancer detection, and so much more.  

In 2023, we are keeping the momentum going. As we move into the Foundation’s second year, the focus will include not only funding vital work being conducted by community partners, but the Foundation will also explore how to measure its impact in a meaningful way. We don’t simply want to distribute dollars; we want to forge a meaningful partnership with our grantees. We galvanize these partnerships by working collaboratively with our grantees and telling their stories because their wins are a win for all of Arizona.   

We often ask our community partners, “If you had a magic wand, where do you see the biggest opportunity for positive change?” And we devise a plan to help make that change possible. It is not magic – it takes funding, resources, hard work, and, more than anything, a passion and common commitment to a cause. We encourage Arizona-based organizations with a shared commitment to any of our four focus areas to submit a letter of interest. Together we can cultivate vibrant communities, impact health, and even save lives this year and for years to come. 

Author: Dr. Christine Wiggs is President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Foundation for Community & Health Advancement.