AUSTIN, Texas — Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin and Houston-based Episcopal Health Foundation have announced a partnership to discover and advance health interventions outside of clinical settings that address underlying, nonmedical causes of poor health. The program’s goal is to transform the most promising efforts into successful cost-effective initiatives that measurably improve health.
Research shows that as much as 80-90 percent of our health is determined by nonmedical factors such as smoking, access to healthy food, housing and transportation — also known as social determinants of health. That means only 10-20 percent of our health relates directly to health care, where the vast majority of health-focused dollars are spent.
“We know that nonmedical drivers play an outsized role in influencing health outcomes, but that’s not where we are investing resources,” said Mini Kahlon, Ph.D., Dell Med’s vice dean for the health ecosystem and associate professor of population health. “This strategic partnership addresses that imbalance by bringing ideas together with expertise and funding to drive better health outcomes, particularly for those who are underinsured and uninsured.”
Supported by a $2.6 million investment from the Episcopal Health Foundation, Dell Med’s new program, Factor Health, will:
- Solicit innovative proposals from organizations working to advance nonmedical drivers of health (initially in Austin and Travis County, followed by expansion to include Harris and other counties).
- Invest to improve the proposals over several months by leveraging expertise from across the country to raise the chances of improving health outcomes.
- Provide funding for two years to the programs most likely to be fundable by long-term health care payers.
- Match the most viable programs with longer-term payers to ensure scalability and financial sustainability.
“The startling reality is that we’re spending our health resources almost exclusively on medical care, but we’re not getting better health. Medical care alone isn’t enough to keep many Texans healthy because it doesn’t address the root causes of poor health,” said Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation. “Many innovative organizations are already reaching beyond clinics to tackle these nonmedical drivers of health, but it’s a challenge to find health care payers to support them. This effort works to find solutions that work outside the exam room and are proved to be cost-effective and lead to better health.”
Collaborating with health payers is another critical priority of this partnership.
“Beyond improving health, a key component of this collaboration involves identifying measurable outcomes and economic models that are of interest to health care payers, while also helping the payers better understand the value created,” said Elizabeth Jacobs, M.D., chief of primary care and value-based health at Dell Med. “We are looking to bring all of the right players together to quickly prove effective and sustainable models that can be replicated elsewhere.”
Although there is no set criteria regarding the type of organization or business that can apply, organizers say they expect interest from those with a history of delivering value and services to historically underserved groups and from groups with a proven track record of delivering results in relevant areas such as transportation, housing, education and food.
Examples of initiatives that could receive support through the program include an affordable housing organization providing wraparound services to support health at home, an entity delivering nonmedical diabetes prevention services such as diet and exercise coaching, or a group addressing loneliness and social isolation through exercise and community building.
Organizations interested in potentially applying can submit a simple letter of intent to propose by Thursday, Feb. 28.
As the program evolves, a select number of proposals will enter a consultation phase. During this time, a customized team of experts will provide guidance on ways to improve interventions to ensure sustainable funding and maximize opportunities for overall success.
For more information about Factor Health, including more details on target populations, key dates and how to be a part of the learning community that develops alongside this program, visit the program's website.