A Collaboration of Supplier Diversity and Project Health by CVS Health to Serve Underserved Communities

Supplier diversity began as a limited program initiative in most organizations, but the most successful ones have transformed diversity, equity, and inclusion into embedded value-creating operating principles touching all aspects of the business. That describes CVS Health, which has blended supplier diversity and the delivery of healthcare services and supplies to underserved communities nationwide. Through its strategic collaborations with diverse and small business suppliers and social agencies and access to an extensive network of businesses, CVS Health has developed a deep understanding of how the organization can best meet the physical and mental health needs of people in the markets served. Arising from this understanding is Project Health by CVS Health, which provides free community health screenings to underserved populations at locations across the country. Minority-owned Quilez & Associates is the supplier that implemented and continues to expand Project Health by CVS Health across the country.


At CVS Health, the approach to diversity touches every aspect of the business, considers every population served, and informs how the business impacts people and society. That is why the company is committed to advancing an increasingly diverse marketplace that mirrors the people served, ensuring all businesses are provided equal opportunity to be included in the enterprise procurement processes. The success of the Supplier Diversity program reflects CVS Health's commitment to small and diverse suppliers across the country, a commitment backed up by a significant investment in resources. The resources include providing the suppliers with education, training, and networking opportunities that help them harness the skills needed to reach their full potential. This approach fuels economic growth and builds strong communities. In 2022 alone, the continued efforts to advance supplier diversity resulted in a $7.4B production impact, $4.2B in diverse spend, and more than 41,000 new jobs that infused capital back into communities that need it most.

Supporting diverse business enterprises is a win-win effort. The Supplier Diversity Program delivers development and growth opportunities to diverse and small businesses. However, CVS Health also gets measurable value. “At CVS Health, we're committed to developing supplier relationships that reflect the diversity of the world around us. We’ve seen the impact and power an inclusive supply chain can yield. It builds on the strength of our business, grows the national economy, and improves the overall health of populations. Through strategic collaborations like Project Health by CVS Health, we continue to bring accessible health care to the doorsteps of small businesses and minority and women-owned enterprises who need us most—leaving the communities we serve better than we found them,” says Monette Knapik, Executive Director, Enterprise Procurement. Supplier Diversity is considered “healthy business,” a pillar in the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy and a key contributor to the Healthy 2030 impact.

To strengthen and expand the Supplier Diversity Program, the CVS Health Supplier Diversity Team regularly sponsors and attends supplier diversity advocacy conferences, including the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the National LGBT Chamber of Council (NGLCC), and the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). Now in its ninth year, CVS Health also collaborates with Roger Williams University to offer the Executive Learning Series (ELS) for Diverse Suppliers. The training and mentorship program helps vendors develop strategic planning, marketing, social media, communication, and presentation skills. The success of the ELS supports CVS Health’s commitment to advancing Social Justice and Equity. The business development programming was extended to Historically Black Colleges & Universities for further impact.


CVS Health is fully committed to an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy named Healthy 2030. The primary goal is to make “healthier” happen for communities, colleagues, and stockholders. One of the many projects the ESG strategy includes is Project Health by CVS Health, which takes no-cost health screenings and healthcare resources to communities to help people proactively identify chronic conditions. The program has grown substantially since its inception through the efforts of the diverse supplier Quilez & Associates, taking healthcare events to people where they live, work, and worship and remaining a presence in the community.

Quilez & Associates (Q&A) is managed by brothers Carlos Quilez, Chief Operations Officer and Iker Quilez, Chief Technology Officer. Since 1989, the company has been delivering health screenings to African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, LGBTQ+, and seniors in underserved communities and in the language and culture required. Q&A is a supplier for Project Health by CVS Health and has delivered $127 million in free health care services to over 1.7 million Americans. Free biometric screenings include blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose level and body mass index to detect early risks of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. The screenings now also offer PHQ-2 assessments and pre-screenings to help identify people who require additional evaluation for depression.

Project Health by CVS Health has been instrumental in bringing healthcare to communities of color that are historically underserved and to the senior and homeless populations. In 2022, Q&A began a Project Health by CVS Health mobile unit initiative in New England, touring the state to visit social service agencies working with people experiencing homelessness. As proof of the critical need to meet the health care needs of the homeless population, in 2022, 50% of the participants received an abnormal screening result and were counseled on the next steps.

Mental health services were piloted in 2022, resulting in the addition of mental health care services and resources for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. It supported the addition of 250 behavioral health clinicians in the free clinic setting and mental health screenings, webinars, and a BIPOC Mental Health Month Toolkit. Carlos and Iker have been delivering Project Health by CVS Health services for over 17 years, covering 21 states. The company is a health generator but also an economic one. It hires locally, trains locally, and serves locally in communities, leading to a highly diverse workforce. The proof of the company’s success in engaging the people most in need is found in the metrics. Iker explained, “We track the actual abnormality rates to ensure we are serving the people with the highest rates of abnormalities. If we are outpacing the CDC national averages, we're actually getting to see people with higher diabetes numbers, higher blood pressure numbers, etc. We let people know their health issues and help them access other services, including mental health resources, food banks, or whatever is needed.” Project Health by CVS Health provides access to health services based on the needs of the people served, which varies from community to community.

Carlos Quilez elaborated. “We also measure success by talking to customers after they complete a screening process and have a better understanding of their health. Even though they may have insurance and see a personal care physician, the doctor might not understand understand some cultural idiosyncrasies concerning diet and exercise.” An example is when a patient is told to walk in the evenings to get more exercise, but the person lives in a crime-ridden neighborhood and must stay inside after 6 PM for safety reasons. Carlos calls what his company delivers “concierge services” because Q&A goes to affordable housing units, community centers, homeless shelters, senior centers, food banks, and churches and offers advice about diet and exercise through a cultural lens.

To date, Q&A has done over $160 million of health screening services utterly free to communities. Lives are saved through the screenings. For example, the screenings have caught people with dangerously high blood pressure and also led to emergency interventions for people at risk of an immediate heart attack or having a stroke. Success is measured as global program metrics and individual situations like these. Ultimately, Project Health by CVS Health nudges people through multiple points of contact to make behavioral changes and connect them with the appropriate resources, like mental health or diabetes prevention or management resources. “When we know one out of every five people returning for a screening, we know the future impact on the healthcare system is significant,” says Iker.


Getting approval to be a CVS Health vendor required Q&A to perform due diligence. There are many requirements to meet to become a corporate supplier, like completing supplier portal information, vendor risk assessment forms and compliance requirements. Everything must be in perfect order before a corporation the size of CVS Health will approve a vendor. Suppliers going through the process the first time get discouraged and wonder if the investment or time is worth it.

Iker says, “The beauty of successfully going through the vendor qualification process is that other organizations know you've already succeeded. It opens the door for you to qualify for another large organization. Corporate decision-makers will see a diverse supplier was able to jump through the hoops successfully and knows the supplier will be able to get through their process as well.” A collaboration with a company like CVS Health has value in many ways. Carlos and Iker have watched people at CVS Health and Q&A grow their careers, sometimes leading to new connections. A nurse working at Q&A got a position in a hospital system, enabling Q&A to learn more about the hospital system.

“Don’t undervalue the collaboration that you get with an organization like CVS Health,” says Iker, “and what it means to your company in terms of stability, doors that open to other organizations, and potential projects with a current or potential customer.” Successful suppliers that do an excellent job with a company from registration to contract fulfillment are likely to be contacted first about other RFPs that seem like a good fit, leading to new opportunities. “The RFP process itself is very challenging,” says Carlos, “but it is a learning opportunity that prepares you to do more RFPs as they become available.”

Corporate customers with Supplier Diversity teams are not using diverse suppliers to claim support for diversity. They are making a genuine commitment. CVS Health, for example, invests many resources in supplier diversity. The team proactively develops diversity programs and other opportunities that diverse suppliers are most qualified to support. The CVS Health team helps diverse suppliers network, provides various resources, guides diverse suppliers through the RFP and other processes and is always open to communication. Carlos and Iker call this a win-win situation because the supplier and the customer benefit.

Carlos and Iker also suggested that diverse suppliers develop collaborations and leadership skills, including actively listening to collaborators and clients to learn. It takes hard work to grow a business, but as Carlos says, “The extra thing you need as a leader is humility. You need the ability to listen to others speaking, and when they talk, ask questions and act on what you hear. Hopefully, one day, you will be able to anticipate what people need.” The people staffing the Project Health by CVS Health programs learn from the community and recognize that each community is different. This leads to gaining insights that cannot be quantified but are valuable for serving people.


Project Health by CVS Health continues to broaden its services by tapping into the CVS Health Pharmacy footprint and vast network of local organizations to host mobile units and help ensure transportation is not a barrier to receiving health services. Collaborations across the country with different organizations hosting CVS Health events and mobile units allow meeting community members wherever they are best served. The CVS Health’ philanthropic program funds Project Health by CVS Health, but one point Carlos makes clear. The program is not about increasing CVS Health revenues by promoting their pharmacies and products. The people screened do not get advertisements or promotions, and Q&A does not share data. Project Health by CVS Health is completely siloed and not part of any other CVS Health business unit.

How does Quilez & Associates select where to hold Project Health by CVS Health events? First, they look at demographic data around the country and pinpoint the most diverse communities. After identifying specific target areas, they contact city health agencies and community organizations to ask where the most need is and how the Project Health by CVS Health staff can best help meet the needs. “Right now, food insecurity is a major issue in various areas, so we go to food drives to provide assistance as a component of health screenings,” explains Carolos.

Where people live is a significant factor in determining access to healthcare and thus directly impacts people’s health. Researchers have found that an individual’s zip code may have more influence on their health than genetic makeup because of community-level social and economic barriers to well-being. These factors include a lack of access to nutritious food, poor air quality and unreliable transportation to health centers. Organizations at the local level host Project Health by CVS Health events, which are crucial to expanding healthcare access for underserved populations. Many participants have said it is the only time they seek medical services in a given year, so closing the healthcare loop is incredibly important. That is why anyone who screens positive for any physical or mental health conditions has an on-site consult with a nurse practitioner and is provided a directory of local healthcare providers.

Q&A is currently expanding its reach through the addition of mobile units. The first mobile unit began operating in 2022, and now there are eight mobile units. This gives Q&A the ability to deliver services in urban and rural areas where the community members prefer rather than relying only on fixed locations.


The communities that Project Health by CVS Health serves do not have a high level of trust in their healthcare system. “One of our biggest challenges is gaining clients' trust through communication and having a constant presence in communities,” says Iker. “They must get to know our staff, see us return regularly, and recognize our relationships with community organizers and leaders who vouch that Project Health by CVS Health is a legitimate, long-standing program providing needed services.” Utilizing people from the community to work for Project Health by CVS Health creates essential connections that help build trust in what the program offers.

The other primary challenge is the logistics and scheduling of program events. Q&A must work with multiple health departments, state organizations, community organizers, and others. Each market is different.

Trust is also built through results. Success is when somebody participates in the program and says something like, “I didn’t know that medication adherence was that important. I always thought that once my blood pressure was stabilized that I could get off the medication,” or “I did not know that a simple 30-minute walk five times a week was so important to cardiovascular health.” Success is also seen in growing attendance resulting from people telling friends, neighbors and family about the program.


Carlos and Iker attended a symposium where they met various diverse suppliers. “We quickly realized,” said Iker, “that the minority business people got there by merit. They are all extremely capable. When corporations open the door to diverse suppliers, they get new perspectives on the same problems.”

Committing to social justice and equity is only a start because it takes action to make them a reality. CVS Health acts daily through Supplier Diversity and Project Health by CVS Health programs and produces measurable results. Their efforts improve the quality of life for millions of people and enable thousands of diverse and small business suppliers to achieve sustainable growth. CVS Health has taken a leadership position in leveraging the organization’s resources to bring change to the healthcare system. Looking ahead, it is exciting to imagine what the company will accomplish as it strives to meet and exceed the Healthy 2030 goals. It is equally exciting that minority-owned suppliers like Quilez & Associates are at the heart of the accomplishments.