In collaboration with a diverse set of community partners, including colleges and schools from The University of Texas at Austin, the Department of Population Health at the Dell Medical School focuses on improving the overall health and well-being of the people of Travis County and is creating a national model for population health research and policy.
Improving population health means improving health care, access to health care, and the health of the community outside of hospitals, clinics and other health care venues in order to promote health and prevent disease. A healthy population is healthier – meaning people are better able to function and have lower risks of bad health issues and outcomes – and it has access to better care for conditions already afflicting people.
As it forms its foundational mission, the Population Health team — led by inaugural chair William Tierney, MD — is focusing on:
As programs and policies develop to improve the health of the people of the Austin area, ongoing, two-way communication with the entire community is critical to ensure alignment. Meet the Community Strategy Team—nine grassroots leaders, connectors and advocates who are each a cornerstone of their community.
Community-Based Participatory Research
Shared decision-making and a strong interest in community expertise guides the department’s goal of creating effective, sustainable strategies and mechanisms to help communities understand their biggest health challenges and maximize available resources. Support from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation created a center for place-based initiatives that brings together a variety of health-related resources and efforts, and focuses them on specific neighborhoods and communities.
Health Care Redesign and Research
The Department of Population Health works with Seton, Central Health, and the network of community health centers to develop, test, and disseminate new models of care that improve its outcomes and contain costs.
Health Informatics and Data Science
The Department of Population Health works with its key partners to build an improved health information structure for Travis County. All health interactions — whether between physicians and patients, researchers and data, or community centers and residents — and other health-related data from public sources (e.g. census, state and county health departments) will benefit from systematized analytics.
Pathways and care plans for an individual’s health are traditionally rooted in primary care, but creating a method to incentivize providers who keep their patients as healthy as possible is imperative. Weaving population health through the Dell Medical School curriculum and family health residency program will continue to be a focus.
Workers and their families are the majority of Austin and Travis County’s residents. Employers benefit from having safe and healthy workers, and the Department of Population Health is going to be working with them to develop and deploy workplace primary care health promotion and disease prevention and management programs.
Placing students and leaders into international, lower-resource settings — as well as implementing global health systems and lessons into the local community — is coordinated through the Department of Population Health. Draft plans formed in partnership with the Department of Medical Education indicate the possible development of programs in Central or South America. Health care in developing countries is all about population health, and innovations proven useful in these settings can be brought back to serve Austin and Travis County.