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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

CMO Message - Staying Healthy During a Pandemic

There has been no shortage of societal challenges this year. The healthcare challenges posed by COVID-19 have pushed UnitedAg to elevate our services not only to support our members during these trying times but also to build a foundation to better outcomes in the future.

Last fall, our membership identified five focus areas for innovation in 2020: chronic disease management, behavioral health, caregiver services, employee enagagement and healthcare navigation. Instead of throwing us off course, the COVID-19 pandemic made it crystal clear why we need these services and where to invest our time, energy and dollars to achieve a better healthcare experience. I want to share with you three major learnings from the pandemic and what we are doing to address them.

First, the stress of COVID-19 shined a spotlight on the urgent need for more mental health services. There were already disparities in behavioral health outcomes in our communities, but being on the frontlines during a deadly pandemic added tremendous burden to our workforce. To expand our mental health offering, UnitedAg partnered with Spring Health, a comprehensive behavioral health service that pairs eeach individual with a care navigator. This hand-on approach is necessary in times of crisis but should also be thought of as a preventative health benefit that's accessed whenever we aren't feeling our best.

Second, UnitedAg has always been a member-centric organization that utilized in-person interactions to connect with our membership. Without the ability to meet face-to-face, it became obvious that we need a stronger infrastructure for digital communication.

Our monthly HealthChats webinars have created great opportunities for education and discussion. Also, UnitedAg has partnered with ConsejoSano, a culturally and linguistically personalized text messaging platform that allows us to interact with our members and dissimenate important information about benefits.

Lastly, given that those with chronic conditions have a higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, the pandemic reminds us that chronic diseases not only jeopardize long-term health but alos worsen outcomes for acute illnesses. However, control of chronic conditions require years of longitudinal care.

Our Health & Wellness Centers have continued to enroll members in lifestyle management programs for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, and many participants have improved their conditions to the point where they can get off medications! Further, our Health & Wellness Centers have been invaluable resource for COVID-19 testing and workplace mitigation strategies. The success of these programss is the result of close relationships with regional healthy systems, community ties, and a deep understanding of the population we serve.

Over the past several months, the UnitedAg ecosystem has proven itself much more than just a health plan and its clients. We are a community built around trust and passion for bringing the most innovative and cost-effective care to the agriculture industry. In the face of challenges, it's clear we stand and move forward together.


  • Rosemary Ku, MD/MBA/MPA