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The Independence Blue Cross Foundation Public Affairs Creative Services team. 
The Independence Blue Cross Foundation Public Affairs Creative Services team. 

The Independence Blue Cross Foundation

A leader to nonprofits in southeastern Pennsylvania. 

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Throughout its 80-plus year existence, Independence Blue Cross (Independence) has remained committed to its social mission of improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves. The Independence Blue Cross Foundation (Foundation) was launched in 2011 to build upon that mission.  

“The Foundation is changing the way health care is delivered in our region,” said Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Foundation. 

A Leader in Community Health 

The Foundation has been a leader to nonprofits and academic institutions in Southeastern Pennsylvania for nearly a decade, focusing on areas of impact including access to care, the health care workforce, and nonprofit sustainability. All Foundation programs and initiatives drive to improving the health and health care access for underserved communities throughout the region. 

Because of the additional demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation accelerated grants totaling $2.4M to community health centers through its Blue Safety Net program to support the continuity of care in medically underserved communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The Foundation also dedicated more than $1.4M to nonprofit sustainability and COVID-19 related causes including food insecurity, community testing and domestic violence.

However, investing in the education and professional development of nurses is one of the Foundation’s top priorities. Through their Nurses for Tomorrow program, the Foundation advances nursing education and leadership through scholarship and experiential learning for the next generation of health care heroes. 

To date, the Foundation has awarded nearly $45 million to more than 200 community organizations that have reached more than 300,000 residents in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region.

“The Foundation has been on the forefront of most health issues that really impact the community,” said Marshall-Blake. “I think the community thinks of us as a valuable partner who is there to listen, and to help them make a difference together.” 

More than just a check 

While the primary responsibility of the Foundation is grant-making, the Foundation is a convener of diverse organizations, a force for new ideas and a thought leader in addressing emerging health needs in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region.

“We are more than just a check,” said Marshall-Blake. “While grant-making is important, it’s also been important for us to do more than that.”

The Foundation launched three public awareness campaigns in 2019, including one of the most significant.

Someone You Know®, an anti-stigma campaign that shares diverse stories of real people in our communities who have found a life in recovery, are supporting a loved one with an opioid addiction, or sadly lost a loved one due to overdose.

The Foundation takes its Someone You Know® public health campaign to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to help spread awareness about reducing the stigma of opioid addiction, June 2019.

The Someone You Know® podcast currently reaches individuals in 49 states and 28 countries.

“It changed the narrative on substance use disorder,” said Marshall-Blake. “You could see the real impact of sharing real peoples’ stories and encouraging people not to give up hope, that tomorrow can be a brighter day.”

Equitable and Culturally Competent Care in Communities of Color 

Health inequities have been exacerbated in communities of color, underscoring the need to prioritize equitable access to health care for minority and under-resourced communities.  The Foundation award grants to nonprofits who work to prevent, reduce, or eliminate health care disparities to achieve optimal health among racial and ethnic minorities. 

The Foundation was the first to support two initiatives that increase access to COVID-19 testing and eliminated health disparities in Black and Hispanic communities by partnering with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium and Latino Connection’s COVID-19 mobile RV response unit, called CATE (Community-Accessible Testing & Education).  

Additionally, the Foundation understands the connection of culturally competent care to stronger patient relationships. Often, it is beneficial for a patient to see someone who looks like them and can understand their experiences and show empathy. 

The Foundation’s Nursing Internship Program prepares the next generation of nurses to effectively understand and interact with people across cultures. 

“We elevated our nursing program to focus on diversity and leadership,” said Marshall-Blake. “We’re trying to help build a pipeline of diverse nurse educators and researchers.”

Through the Nurses for Tomorrow program, the Foundation advances nursing education and leadership through scholarship and experiential learning for the next generation of health care heroes.

As co-chair of the Pennsylvania Action Coalition’s Nurse Diversity Council, Marshall-Blake and her team have been working closely to increase diversity and cultural competency in the region. 

“We enjoy coming to work every day and helping to change the landscape of the communities.” said Marshall-Blake. “We have a love and passion for the work that we do, and all our work has been possible through our shared mission with the community organizations we support,” said Marshall-Blake. “We walk side by side with them.”

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