Health Policy

Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute Awards $750,000 in Collaborative Research Grants

Researchers will tackle issues related to vaccination rates, Zika, the nutrition gap in low-income communities and mental health of children in foster care

Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute Awards $750,000 in Collaborative Research Grants

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The Texas Medical Center (TMC) Health Policy Institute announced the four winners of its second annual Grant Program in Collaborative Health Policy Research, which awards a total of $750,000 each year to selected projects in an ongoing effort to promote collaboration and partnerships across the TMC’s 59 member institutions. To qualify for the grant, each 12-month research initiative was required to include new, significant collaboration among investigators from three or more TMC member institutions, with the goal of applying their findings to directly impact public policy at the state or federal level within three to five years.

“By cultivating multi-institutional collaboration across the TMC campus, we are generating innovative solutions for improving the health of our citizens within Texas and across the nation,” said Arthur “Tim” Garson, M.D., director of the TMC Health Policy Institute. “We have an extraordinary opportunity to leverage the diversity of talent and expertise here at the TMC to solve an array of health care problems we face today.”

A panel of out-of-state health policy experts reviewed the applications and selected four projects. The principal investigators awarded the grants hail from three different institutions, with a total of eight member organizations collaborating. The awardees include:

Improving Vaccination Rates within the Houston Independent School District: Closing the Vaccination Gap
Susan Wootton, M.D., associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the Center for Clinical Research and Evidence-Based Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) McGovern Medical School, will collaborate with the UTHealth School of Public Health, UTHealth School of Nursing, Baylor College of Medicine and the City of Houston Department of Health and Human Services to identify effective methods for improving low vaccination rates. The project will study the vaccination rates of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children across eight low-performing Houston schools.

Developing a Multi-Institutional Collaborative Policy for Zika
Stephanie Morain, Ph.D.
, assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at Baylor College of Medicine, will be joined by experts from Texas Children’s Hospital, UTHealth and Ben Taub General Hospital-Harris Health System to address the recent rise of Zika by identifying areas in the health care system that impede testing, caring for and advising patients about Zika. Based on their findings, they will develop policy proposals for more effective Zika response throughout the TMC, city of Houston and Harris County.

Go, Slow, Whoa! Utilizing a Food Labeling System to Make “Healthy” the Easy Choice
E. Lisako J. McKyer, Ph.D.
, associate professor and associate dean of Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, will partner with researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Southern University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to address the education gap in nutrition in minority groups and low-income communities. This initiative aims to promote healthier food choices by working with 10 local corner stores to implement a simple yet effective red-yellow-green nutritional labeling system. McKyer and her team will then present the findings to help better inform city and state policies around food access and education.

Policies and Practices Addressing Medical and Mental Health Needs for Children in Foster Care
Christopher Greeley, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, and researchers from UTHealth McGovern Medical School, Texas Children’s Hospital and Rice University will assess the medical and mental health of children in the greater Houston area foster care system and evaluate the policies that affect their care. As one of the top concerns of Texas law and policymakers, Greeley and his team will use the results of their research to provide recommendations that can improve long-term outcomes.

“We are excited by this year’s cohort of premier researchers, and the issues they will be attacking in their respective projects are consequential for the future of health policy,” said Stephen Linder, Ph.D., associate director of the TMC Health Policy Institute. “We are breaking down silos in the TMC by bringing together top talent from multiple institutions to solve an array of health care problems we face today.”

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