Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Feds give UK $4.5 million to identify, address social determinants of health in 27 Appalachian counties and parts of Louisville Metro

University of Kentucky researchers have been awarded $4.5 million to support local communities in identifying and addressing the health-related social needs of their most vulnerable patients.

These unmet social needs are often called social determinants of health and include factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. They include housing instability, food insecurity, interpersonal violence and lack of transportation.

And while needs in these areas are often met by existing community programs, many patients have difficulty accessing them, "including lack of awareness and resources to locate appropriate services, low health literacy, and even geographic and distance barriers in the Appalachian region of Kentucky," Olivia Ramirez reports in a UK news release.

"This award – and the research being done with it – will allow physicians to better address the health and social needs of the patients they serve," Mark D. Birdwhistell, vice president for administration and external affairs for UK HealthCare, said in the release. "Addressing those needs on the front lines of care will be critical for reducing the burden of health disparities, especially confronted by patients in Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia."

The $4.5 million award from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services goes to the UK Center for Health Services Research to establish the Kentucky Consortium for Accountable Health Communities. UK is one of 32 organizations selected to participate in this five-year pilot project.

UK was chosen for the highest level of participation, which requires an emphasis on "community participation, including assistance from community members in identifying social services available in the region and training navigators who can assist patients in accessing services," says the release.

The project will partner with the Kentucky Primary Care Association, Norton Healthcare, Appalachian Regional Health and Kentucky HomePlace.

The Kentucky Consortium of Accountable Health Communities will research social determinants of
health in the areas colored blue: 27 Appalachian counties and parts of Jefferson County. (UK map)
This collaboration will work across 27 Appalachian counties and part of Jefferson County to screen Medicare and Medicaid patients for unmet social needs that impact their health, provide service referrals and offer navigation services to help patients with their identified needs – with the goal of reducing the use of healthcare services for issues that can be addressed by existing social programs.

Appalachian counties in the study include: Adair, Bell, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Estill, Floyd, Green, Hart, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Monroe, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Russell, Wayne and Whitley.

A key aspect of this pilot project is to "examine whether clinical and community service alignment at the systems level impacts health care costs, care utilization, and patient outcomes," says the release.

"Our researchers will have the opportunity to identify where gaps exist in the care that residents of Appalachia may be experiencing," Dr. Michael Karpf, UK's outgoing executive vice president for health affairs, said in the release.

Another important aspect of the project is ensuring that these communities can continue to identify social needs and link patients to appropriate services after the funding has ended.

Dr. Mark V. Williams, lead researcher and director of the consortium, said, “This isn’t money being spent solely on a research project. We want to integrate these efforts into the health care of the community and ensure sustainability,"

To learn more about the Accountable Health Communities Project, click here.

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