Social and Community Context

Healthcare is a complex journey, one that requires the right resources and programs for addressing individuals’ mental and physical health, as well as enriching their social lives and ties to their community.

Mental healthcare, the first pillar of Highmark Bright Blue Futures’ work in this area, involves programs that improve one’s mental health and overall wellbeing.

Additionally, our programs related to physical activity and social connections encourage individuals to improve their health and quality of life through regular physical activity, and to seek out relationships that nurture their emotional, psychological and physical wellness, and growth.

A group of people exercising

Fitness on the Field and Fitness at the Plaza

Western and Northeastern New York

Last year, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York hosted the Second Annual Fitness on the Field program, providing community members with free health and wellness classes and initiatives. The program’s theme was ‘Workout Like a Pro,’ and six fitness instructors participated, each holding their own 30-minute workout classes on the field of Highmark Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills.

In 2022, 811 people participated in the classes, many of whom registered for more than one class, contributing to a total of 1,939 workouts over the course of the day.

In addition to free fitness classes, participants were able to hear from a major fitness influencer and Peloton instructor about her personal mental health journey and challenges.

Through partnerships with fitness instructors, the Buffalo Bills and several vendors, Highmark was able to maximize our engagement with community members and advance the program’s mission of making health and fitness accessible and enjoyable for as many people as possible.

Another free fitness program, Fitness at the Plaza, hosted by Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York in partnership with the Office of General Services, provided free classes to communities in Albany, NY. Though it began as a summer program when it was founded in 2017, due to its popularity in Albany, in 2018, Highmark also added a winter program. The classes are offered twice a week and geared toward individuals of all fitness levels and backgrounds.Over the course of the program, more than 11,000 people have participated in Fitness at the Plaza’s winter and summer classes. Many participants have shared positive feedback about their experiences with the program, expressing how the ease of accessibility enabled them to kick off their weight loss journey and take active steps in prioritizing their physical health and wellness.

Girls learning

Gwen’s Girls Teen Mental Health Initiative

Southwestern Pennsylvania

When providing lasting mental and physical health resources and social outlets for the community, it’s critical to start with some of the youngest community members and introduce formative behaviors and lifestyle tools they can carry with them into adulthood.

The mission of Gwen’s Girls, a program in Southwest Pennsylvania founded in 2002, and supported by Highmark Wholecare, is to empower girls and young women to lead productive lives through holistic, gender-specific programs, education and experiences.

The organization was founded by late Pittsburgh Police Commander Gwen Elliott, one of the first African American female police officers in 1976, and the first woman promoted to Sergeant, and ultimately, Commander. Gwen was inspired to work with women and girls from early on in her career. She witnessed the struggles of young women and girls who interacted with law enforcement and decided to start her own agency to improve the quality of life of girls and women, and of their children and future generations.

Gwen’s Girls Teen Mental Health Initiative, a program in Southwest Pennsylvania supported by Highmark, engages teen girls in youth mental health curriculum and exposes them to fun, artistic and creative ways to express themselves and support others in their community. In addition to attending two-hour sessions each week, girls are given the opportunity to use the skills they’ve gained to “pay it forward” by becoming ambassadors around teen mental health issues. The program consists of three cohort groups of up to 10 teen girl participants, with a total of 30 girls participating annually.

Not everyone receives the same amount of encouragement, guidance and resources in academic and community spaces. The Teen Mental Health Initiative program ensure that Black girls and young women are given the confidence and tools to succeed in school, at home and out in the world.

K’s for Kids

West Virginia

Highmark recognizes the tremendous value that local nonprofits and charities hold for the communities they serve. To continue honoring the impact of local charities, every year, Highmark West Virginia supports a different nonprofit benefiting West Virginia children and youth.

Last year, through the K’s for Kids program, Highmark West Virginia teamed up with West Virginia-based minor league baseball teams, the Charleston Dirty Birds and the West Virginia Black Bears, for the eighth year in a row to support WV KIDS COUNT and Variety the Children’s Charity.

WV KIDS COUNT is the leading source for data on child and family wellbeing in the state. It has been championing the needs of kids and families for more than 30 years through funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, state-level foundations, government grants, corporations and individuals.

Another organization addressing the needs of youth and families, Variety the Children’s Charity delivers vital medical equipment and services to children around the world who are sick, disadvantaged or living with disabilities.