Revolutionizing how people get and stay healthy requires more than medicine.
Dell Medical School’s “Healthscape,” focused on health beyond the clinic, supports and advances innovations that improve health in the landscape of people’s lives. It is anchored in the places where people live, learn, work and play.
Activities build on innovation and expertise in programming for social needs, implementing effective solutions and forging strong partnerships with community organizations.
Here are four more examples, shared during an April 30 symposium celebrating this critical work.
Checking in on Central Texas Communities
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected older adults, people with chronic diseases, immigrants, and people who are Black, indigenous and people of color, or BIPOC.
A program of outreach with community partners called Central Texas Check-In is assessing the effects of COVID-19 on these priority populations by measuring social drivers of health — food access, employment and housing. Ultimately, the goal is to reach a range of communities speaking languages from Spanish to Vietnamese and to help them find resources, with a particular focus in the coming year on Asian communities.
Many people disproportionately affected by health disparities like COVID-19 have limited access to resources, a problem reinforced by language barriers.
Kacey Hanson is leading a team working to engage trusted partners to reach people, hiring community liaisons to engage with 300 households in Central Texas Asian communities, optimizing resource connections that support equity and good health.
Partners in this work include the City of Austin Office of Sustainability and its Asian American Quality of Life Advisory Commission, the Austin Asian Community Health Initiative and Asian Family Support Services of Austin.
Holistic Solutions for an ‘Urban Desert’
Austin’s Eastern Crescent exists within an “Urban Desert,” experiencing limited access to affordable healthy food, health care, financial and professional services, as well as other critical amenities. As a result of decades of historical injustice, communities in the Eastern Crescent experience higher poverty rates, lower life expectancies, higher age-adjusted mortality rates and fewer hospitals and clinics in a nearby radius.
Live Well/Vive Bien, an initiative piloted by Equidad ATX, is envisioned as a holistic mobile ecosystem servicing the Eastern Crescent, specifically the communities of Colony Park, Del Valle and Creedmoor. It plans to address unmet social determinants of health — particularly the issue of food insecurity — for historically underserved populations through an incredible experience revolving around a retrofitted decommissioned Capital Metro bus that will not replace brick and mortar facilities, but act as a bridge to meet people where they are.
How might we best organize resources and partners to design sustainable, holistic, pandemic-appropriate solutions to food insecurity?
Student Zaara Qasim is leading the Dell Med team contributing to the Live Well/Vive Bien initiative, which is bringing comprehensive health services to the residents of Austin’s Eastern Crescent.
The goal is to create a holistic mobile ecosystem that addresses unmet social determinants of health for residents.
Partners in this work include Equidad ATX, Central Texas Food Bank, Gensler Architecture, Farm Share Austin, Urban Roots, Capital Metro, Colony Park Neighborhood Association, Purpose Built Communities, CommUnity Care Health Centers, Austin Public Health, Austin Public Library, Integral Care and Texas Capital Bank.
Community-Based Overdose Reporting: Improving Data
The Texas Targeted Opioid Response is working closely with community members in Texas who use drugs among other key stakeholders to inform the design and development of a platform to collect valuable data.
There are major gaps in data related to drug overdoses. Filling these — and giving people who use drugs a sense of ownership of how their information is used — has the potential to increase funding for substance-use related efforts and organizations, improve the availability of community resources and reduce stigma regarding substance use.
A team led by Kasey Claborn, assistant professor at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at UT Austin, including members from Dell Med’s Information Technology office, aims to improve reporting on drug overdoses in Texas through the development and testing of a generalizable and sustainable digital platform. It will include people who use drugs, laypersons and bystanders in both the design process and the reporting process.
Partners in this work include MavenWave.
‘Sunshine Calls’ Reduce Loneliness, Depression in Older Adults
Depression, anxiety and isolation have seen a rise during COVID-19. The Sunshine Calls initiative mitigates these effects by giving mostly homebound adults the opportunity to connect with someone over the phone. Participants drive the conversation and have the agency to choose when and how often they wanted to be called, with a minimum of two calls per week.
At launch of Sunshine Calls, COVID restrictions remained very strict. Many people, particularly at-risk adults, were increasingly socially isolated. In addition, Meals on Wheels clients were accustomed to interacting with their Meals volunteer, something that was taken away because of COVID.
A team led by Factor Health director and founder Mini Kahlon, Ph.D., and Maria Cowley-Morillo, a research associate, is seeking to positively impact anxiety, depression and loneliness through a telephonic intervention that provides social connection to mostly homebound adults. In addition, project leaders aim to demonstrate that programs and interventions that occur outside of the clinic are worth paying for by the health care system.
Partners in this work include Meals on Wheels Central Texas.