Cleveland, OH - The Urban Universities for HEALTH Learning Collaborative traveled to Cleveland State University last week for its semi-annual conference and site visit, aimed at examining evidence-based approaches to reducing health care disparities. The goal of the two-day event was to develop an agreed-upon set of leading health workforce measures to include in a metrics dashboard – one of the primary deliverables of the Urban Universities for HEALTH project.
Dr. Ronald M. Berkman, President of Cleveland State University, and Dr. Jay Gershen, President of Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), opened the meeting with remarks highlighting the NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health. The NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health seeks to improve health outcomes for residents of traditionally underserved urban communities and reduce health disparities. The partnership has also developed the place-based Cleveland Neighborhood Model, which sends interdisciplinary teams of health professions students to local communities to promote the health of communities residents and their families.
The Learning Collaborative then commenced a series of three “unconference” sessions, which took place over the next two days and were designed to elicit key leading health workforce indicators within each of the core areas of impact (access to health care, educational opportunity, and competence). Unlike regular conference sessions, unconference sessions are participant-driven and feature open discussion. Leading indicators predict future events and tend to change ahead of that event, while lagging indicators follow an event and measure whether or not it was successful. The charge of the group was to develop leading indicators that could eventually be included in a metrics dashboard for universities.The dashboard, once fully operational, will allow universities to better predict outcomes related to students, the institution, and the community, and help leaders transition to more proactive and evidence-based decision making.
Two dynamic keynote speakers reminded the Learning Collaborative why health equity work is so important, and inspired the group to further engage with communities to support disadvantaged student’s success in the health professions. Dr. Julian M. Earls, Executive in Residence at CSU’s Nance College of Business Administration gave an empowering speech, arguing that “we need ‘I can,’ not just IQ,” and “nothing in this world will take the place of persistence.” Dr. Akram Boutros, President and CEO of Cleveland’s MetroHealth system, spoke about the lack of inclusion in the health care environment: “Minorities do not have confidence in our health care system, because we have not embraced them.” Instead of “cultural sensitivity,” he argued, “let’s try being sensitive to other people.”
A key strength of the conference was the opportunity to learn more about CSU/NEOMED’s programs and interact with students and community members who had set aside time to join the meeting and share their perspectives. For example, a group of students participating in the Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) program presented information about community-based projects they had developed. These projects spanned a wide range of health issues and employed creative solutions, such as peer-to-peer teen suicide prevention, a program to recruit nurses for K-12 schools that currently lack a school nurse, and a “dress for success” program to help disadvantaged students learn how to dress professionally for jobs and internships.
The meeting culminated in a “Data Innovation Challenge,” which allowed representatives from several demonstration sites to pitch new ideas and initiatives related to metrics development and data collection.
Participants left the meeting having learned more about metrics that other institutions had developed, and made progress toward identifying the best indicators for a metrics dashboard. The Learning Collaborative will begin identifying institutional strategies that will impact these metrics and ultimately move the dial toward reducing health disparities in urban communities.