Washington, DC - Universities are working to improve the health of their communities in a variety of ways, but it is not always easy for them to measure and communicate the success of their efforts. On June 24, members of the Urban Universities for HEALTH Learning Collaborative convened in Washington, DC to share the results of their work to date with Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) presidents and chancellors. Each of the five university demonstration sites explained how their institutions have positively impacted community health in key areas common among across cities. They also discussed ongoing efforts to collect local data and improve evidence for existing community health needs.
Dr. Greer Glazer, Dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati, discussed how her institution is working to increase educational opportunities for and success of local students in health careers. Metrics such as kindergarten readiness and high school graduation are already being tracked for Cincinnati public schools, and large disparities still exist. UC’s minimum standards may explain why many local students are not successfully matriculating to UC; the minimum ACT score for the College of Nursing is 24, while the average in the Cincinnati public school system is only 19.
Dr. Jenifer Allsworth, Research Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, spoke about UMKC’s efforts to increase the knowledge and capability of all health professionals to address the social determinants of health. She explained that in Kansas City, the diversity of the patient population is much broader than race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. “It means dealing with patients from different cultures, patients who may be recent refugees, and patients who may not be legal residents.” Most studies of cultural competence have focused on students and trainees, but more data is needed on the success of graduates, including feedback from health care employers.
Disparities in access to care are self-evident in data from urban neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Erik Porfeli, Assistant Dean for Community Engagement and Admissions at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) gave a compelling presentation showing that the Cleveland Clinic, which provides world class medical care, is located within just a few miles of some of the most impoverished, under-resourced communities in the city. Cleveland State University (CSU) and NEOMED have begun an effort to track providers and facilities by neighborhood, in order to accurately gauge workforce shortages and areas where additional health care resources are urgently needed.
Presidents and chancellors then discussed how their institutions could use similar data to better inform university efforts to improve community health. The need for standardized, longitudinal data systems and data collection technology was cited by many, as well as sustainable funding sources that would provide room for growth. Presidents and chancellors also described an pressing need to close the gap between what health care employers want, and how universities are preparing their students. They agreed that universities need to employ a cradle-to-career approach, reaching students as early as possible in their academic careers and working with them through graduation to provide them with skills needed for success in the future health workforce.
About Urban Universities for HEALTH
Urban Universities for HEALTH (Health Equity through Alignment, Leadership and Transformation of the Health Workforce) is a partnership effort of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU)/Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The project aims to address the severe shortage of qualified health professionals in underserved areas by leveraging the power of urban universities to enhance and expand a culturally sensitive, diverse, and prepared health workforce.