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UNISON To Help Meet Neighborhood Health Needs

Thursday, August 15, 2013

By: Kevin McKeough

The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System is planning a comprehensive assessment of the health needs of 24 Chicago neighborhoods in its service area. Expected to begin in late summer, the University of Illinois Survey on Neighborhood Health (UNISON Health) will provide important data that will strengthen UI Health's ability to fulfill its mission to eradicate health disparities. It also will provide an opportunity to distribute information that will help local residents better understand the Affordable Care Act and their insurance options.

Dr. Jerry Krishnan
"The local health data available is limited in a variety of ways, so we want to survey our primary service area to see what the health issues are and to what extent people's health needs are being met," says Nicole Kazee, PhD, director of health policy and programs for UI Health. She is leading the UNISON Health initiative in tandem with Jerry Krishnan, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and public health and associate vice president for population health sciences. The university's nationally regarded Survey Research Laboratory will conduct the study.

"We especially don't have good information in a lot of cases about the health of the most vulnerable patients," she adds. "We know prevalence and mortality tend to be higher, but we don't always know why, or the extent to which this is true in our own local communities."

UNISON Health will survey 1,400 adult residents of the 24 neighborhoods, from Humboldt Park and West Town in the north to West Lawn and Englewood in the southern corners. The survey will solicit information about health-related behaviors, health care access and utilization, prevalence of disease conditions, quality of life indicators and knowledge of the ACA.

The people being surveyed will include 600 UI Health patients with hypertension, diabetes or asthma who also will complete an extended, disease-specific questionnaire. This second part of the survey will establish a clear baseline that the health system will use to evaluate the effectiveness of its clinical programs, healthcare delivery system and university-affiliated community initiatives.

"Part of UNISON is learning more about our community, and part of this is learning about our own patients and what we can be doing better," Kazee says. "It's important to understand what's going on with patients who have these conditions so we can figure out how to help them better manage their conditions."

In addition, UNISON Health will help UI Health identify the populations that may benefit most from existing clinical programs or new programs that need to be built. The information found in the survey can also provide ideas for innovative student projects or service learning opportunities in the community. It also will help UI Health strengthen and build community partnerships to eradicate health disparities.

"We want to use UNISON to leverage our work in all these areas so we can be a better member of our community and improve health for everyone in the community," Kazee says.