HOUSTON, January 28, 2018 — The Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute is providing $94,678 to support the development of a new tool that will help policymakers gauge the impact of their decisions on the health of their communities.
The project aims to assist policymakers as they evaluate how policies often considered outside the realm of public health nonetheless impact the health of residents.
“A hypothetical application would be if a community had the opportunity to invest in one area of town and wanted to improve the town’s health,” said John Prochaska, DrPH, assistant professor of preventive medicine and community health at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, who is leading the project. “This could help answer where it could invest, and what it could invest in.”
Prochaska said the index could be used to guide decisions such as where to build grocery stores, schools or roads, among other decisions. An early iteration of the tool was developed to provide guidance on the best places to build public housing in Galveston in the wake of 2008’s Hurricane Ike.
“We believe this is a powerful tool that can guide policymakers as they seek to improve the health of their communities,” said Stephen Linder, PhD, associate director of the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute.
Prochaska and his colleagues are refining the tool, which will give every zip code in Texas a “Potential Health Impact Score” based on factors such as demographics, housing vacancy rates and even the number of fast food outlets in an area. Researchers will be able to show how different policy decisions can improve or worsen that score.
“The problem is there’s just so much information,” Prochaska said. “We want to collect all that information to give policymakers an idea, relatively speaking, of how much of an impact certain decisions have. We’re helping them figure out how to put it all together.”
Over the next year, researchers will conduct interviews with mayors, councilmembers and city staff members to refine their tool as they work to determine the best way to get it into the hands of policymakers. Researchers will initially use the tool in the seven-county area surrounding Bryan-College Station but eventually believe it can be used in any Texas community.
Texas A&M University Health Science Center and University of Houston are also participating in the study. Researchers will share their findings in approximately one year. The grant is part of the Texas Medical Center Grant Program in Collaborative Health Policy Research, which has awarded approximately $2 million in grants to researchers studying innovative approaches to health policy.
About the Texas Medical Center
What was sparked with the founding of a single hospital in Houston in 1925 has come to be the Texas Medical Center (TMC) today. Home to 59 member institutions, TMC operates the world’s largest medical city with 10 million patients and family encounters with doctors, nurses and staff at TMC every year. TMC is dedicated to reinventing life sciences to improve the health and wellness of Houston, and the world. Learn more at www.tmc.edu.
About the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute
The Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute was established to inform, define and lead health policy with the goal of developing the most effective solutions to improve the health of diverse populations around the globe. By driving innovative, evidence-based health policy initiatives across the Texas Medical Center’s 59 member institutions, the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute addresses fundamental health policy issues important to Houston, Texas and the nation. More information at www.tmc.edu/health-policy.
About UTMB Health
Texas’ first academic health center opened its doors in 1891 and today has three campuses, four health sciences schools, three institutes for advanced study, a research enterprise that includes one of only two national laboratories dedicated to the safe study of infectious threats to human health, and a health system offering a full range of primary and specialized medical services throughout Galveston County and the Texas Gulf Coast region. UTMB Health is a component of the University of Texas System and a member of the Texas Medical Center.
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Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute
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