Health Lab: An incubator for urban health

University of Chicago Medicine physician Grace E. Berry, MD, above left, and medical assistant LaDonna White assess a patient as part of the Comprehensive Care Physician (CCP) Model. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

University of Chicago Medicine physician Grace E. Berry, MD, above left, and medical assistant LaDonna White assess a patient as part of the Comprehensive Care Physician (CCP) Model. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

“It’s one thing to be sick,” David Meltzer, MD, PhD, director of the University of Chicago’s Health Lab, once said. “It’s a much more difficult thing to be sick and poor and in a neighborhood that’s so unsafe that people won’t come to help you.”

Therein lies the heart of the Health Lab, an incubator to improve outcomes and increase access to care for disadvantaged urban populations. Part of the UChicago Urban Lab — which also houses labs specializing in crime, energy and environment, education and poverty — Health Lab’s researchers test and scale promising, cost-effective solutions for society’s most pressing health issues.

Meltzer’s Comprehensive Care Physician (CCP) Model study is one of the Lab’s flagship programs and examines whether continuity of care between inpatient and outpatient settings leads to better results for frequently hospitalized Medicare patients. Early results suggest it does.

“I think this program has real potential to show major reductions in total cost of care with a sustainable approach,” Meltzer said. “We already know many patients love the program. The doctors know them before they are hospitalized, and the patients know and trust their doctors.”

The Health Lab’s other major initial project is an ambitious partnership with the Cook Country Sheriff’s Office, the Heartland Alliance and Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities to create a Supportive Release Center to help persons released from Cook County Jail with mental health or social needs to make a more successful transition back into the community.

The Health Lab is also adding its expertise to promote the success of several ongoing projects, including the Chicago Area Patient Centered Outcomes Research Network (CAPriCORN, which brings together 20 Illinois health and hospital organizations to pool data from more than one million patients, and the Training Early Achievers for Careers in Health (TEACH) Research initiative, which provides Chicago Public Schools students from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to do health-related research and work with UChicago faculty, fellows and students.

Among the lab’s other undertakings: creating more robust infrastructure to fuel local cost-effectiveness research — and fostering the next generation of health scientists. Its powerful Chicago Area Patient Centered Outcomes Research Network brings together 20 Illinois health and hospital organizations to pool data from more than one million patients. The Training Early Achievers for Careers in Health (TEACH) Research initiative provides Chicago Public Schools students from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to do health-related research and work with UChicago faculty, fellows and students.

Such efforts aim to pave the way for improved health outcomes in cities around the globe.

%d bloggers like this: