University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations
May 28, 2008
Contact: Jennifer Z. Ekman, Office of Public Relations, (251) 460-6360
Mobile County Health Department and University of South Alabama receive Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to evaluate interventions aimed at reducing racial and ethnic gaps in health care
Demonstrated ability to develop and test interventions key to the Mobile County Health Department and the University of South Alabama's award

The Mobile County Health Department and the University of South Alabama are receiving a two-year, $275,000 grant from Finding Answers: Disparities Research for Change, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) housed at the University of Chicago that evaluates interventions aimed at eliminating racial and ethnic health care disparities in local communities. Nine other organizations from around the country will receive similar grants from Finding Answers/RWJF. The final 10 grantees were selected from a pool of 134 submitted proposals and join 11 other sites awarded funding in December 2006.

“We are pleased to join the Foundation and its Finding Answers program in working to eliminate disparities in the U.S. health care system,” said Principal Investigator, Dr. Bernard Eichold of the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD). “The funds from this grant will help us evaluate our current interventions to learn whether they are effective in equalizing care for all our patients.”

The Finding Answers/RWJF grant will “allow the evaluation of efforts to improve the care of minority patientssuffering from diabetes, a disease for which evidence of racial and ethnic disparities in care is strong and the recommended standard of care is clear,” said Project Director, Dr. Martha I. Arrieta of the University of South Alabama Center for Healthy Communities.

MCHD currently participates in a national-level collaborative to improve the quality of care to patients with diabetes. As part of the RWJF-funded project, the Center for Healthy Communities and the Center for Strategic Health Innovation at the University of South Alabama (USA) will help implement and evaluate a blood glucose tele-monitoring intervention. Monitoring of blood glucose levels has been shown to improve outcomes for diabetes patients. MCHD patients participating in the tele-monitoring project will measure blood glucose levels using standard glucometers. They will input their blood glucose values via telephone into their electronic medical record. Should the glucose value be out of range, the electronic medical record will send an automatic alert to the patient’s nurse. The nurse can then follow up with a phone call to the patient. Thus, any immediate patient needs can be addressed from a distance.

 “These grantees will work with the health care community to identify innovative approaches to reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care,” said Marshall H. Chin, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, Department of Medicine and the Center for Health and the Social Sciences, as well as the director of the Finding Answers program. “They will develop interventions that can be replicated and sustained in communities throughout the United States.”

The results of MCHD and USA’s research will help Finding Answers and RWJF understand what works—or does not work—to improve health care for minority patients. The information MCHD, USA and the other 20 grantees provide to Finding Answers will include guidance for implementing tested interventions, including potential obstacles and solutions, start-up and maintenance costs for the intervention, and staff training needs. Finding Answers will evaluate the results and related information and then inform health care stakeholders—doctors, nurses, hospitals and health plans—about promising interventions that demonstrate potential to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

The majority of the proposals submitted to Finding Answers/RWJF included interventions involving health care policy, health care organizations, providers, patients and direct community linkages to the health care system. All were evaluated and selected based on the following factors: strength of the intervention, demographics of the institution, institutional commitment to addressing disparities in health care and improving quality of care overall, data collection capacity, and the scientific quality of the proposed research project.

The nine other second-round grant recipients are:

  • Arizona Board of Regents / University of Arizona, Arizona
  • Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina
  • East Carolina Health / Bertie All-County Health Services, North Carolina
  • Baylor College of Medicine, Texas
  • Hudson Health Plan, New York
  • Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana
  • The Regents of the University of California-Los Angeles, California
  • University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania
  • The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas.
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