In 2000, The Urban Affairs Coalition leadership, Maria Pajil Battle, (whose biography is found below) and other key staff from the Coalition and Keystone Mercy, were part of an in-depth study of HEDIS measures for Keystone Mercy Health Care members and minority groups, especially African Americans, in the Philadelphia area. HEDIS measures address a broad range of important health issues:
• Asthma Medication Use
• Persistence of Beta-Blocker Treatment after a Heart Attack
• Controlling High Blood Pressure
• Comprehensive Diabetes Care
• Breast Cancer Screening
• Antidepressant Medication Management
• Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Status
• Advising Smokers to Quit
For 28 years, Keystone Mercy Health Plan has been Pennsylvania's largest Medical Assistance (Medicaid) managed care health plan, serving more than more than 313,722 Medical Assistance recipients in Southeastern Pennsylvania including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. As found in its mission statement:
Keystone Mercy exists to provide quality and accessible health care services to our members, and is characterized by a special concern for the poor and disadvantaged. Simply put, we help people:
• Get Care
• Stay Well
• Build healthy communities
Keystone Mercy’s demographics include: 55% African-American, 31.5% Caucasian, 4% Asian and 1% Latino. The HEDIS measures study revealed that the African American members, who were mostly women, experienced definite health disparities in the areas discussed in more detail throughout this application. In short, the health disparities found in the Keystone membership followed those found in the minority groups of the United States as a whole: diabetes, stress/depression, obesity, heart disease, high-blood pressure/stoke, and breast/cervical cancer.
Around that time, a great deal of discussion in health agencies concerned faith-based provision of services. This environment informed the conversations of the Urban Affairs Coalition, Keystone Mercy, and leaders of African American and minority communities. The Coalition-led deliberations resulted in a plan that would connect the spiritual strength of black and minority religious organizations to the health care needs of African American and minority women and their families by providing a forum and platform for health education and prevention of disease. By holding health screenings in churches, by engaging respected Pastor’s and Imams as motivational speakers, by adding workshops on cooking and nutrition, exercise and meditation class, the Coalition created a program that empowered thousands to choose health and wellness.