“We’re redefining what health really means, and in that we’re saying that health isn’t always about when you’re sick, health is about all of the other aspects in your life that affect you.”
Chris Esguerra learned the power of a supportive community at age 7. He and his family were newly arrived immigrants in California, but “it didn’t feel like it was hard because we were always part of a community, always embraced,” he said.
Esguerra brings that experience and his background as a psychiatrist to his role as senior medical director of Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan, where his team focuses on members covered by the government programs Medicare and Medicaid. Because those individuals often have health conditions and need different kinds of social support, Esguerra sees his job as redrawing the lines of traditional healthcare, so it encompasses things like helping people who struggle to get reliable access to food.
That includes treating patients for diabetes alongside food insecurity, by creating a “social needs care specialist” that doctors at his health plan’s two primary care clinics could refer their patients to when they didn’t have enough to eat.
Esguerra says it’s the right thing to do, but he also makes a business case for it. Creating the “social needs care specialist” saved Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan $4 million in hospitalizations last year alone.