Medical College of Wisconsin teams up with UW on $3 million study of state’s health disparities

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The Medical College of Wisconsin is partnering with the UW School of Medicine and Public Health on a $3 million study of health inequities across Wisconsin.

Through the three-year project, the state’s two medical schools will use existing clinical data from health systems and insurers as well as geographic data to measure health disparities and recommend solutions to address them.

The goal is to understand where gaps in care exist, the institutions said. Examples could include identifying areas and populations that can benefit by focusing on maintaining healthy blood pressure, colorectal cancer screening, or depression screenings during pregnancy.

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The project is being funded by MCW’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment and the UW SMPH’s Wisconsin Partnership Program.

“By supporting a collaboration of this magnitude – between academic centers, health systems, and payers – we aim to bring forward new solutions that will reduce inequities in health and positively impact those who have been underserved and marginalized,” said Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, director of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment and senior associate dean at MCW.

The medical schools will also partner with the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality, and the Wisconsin Health Information Organization.

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The project is led by Dr. Maureen Smith, professor of population health sciences and family medicine and community health at the UW SMPH, and Dr. Joan Neuner, professor of medicine at MCW.

The initiative builds on previous research supported by WPP, led by Smith in partnership with WCHQ, which showed Wisconsin health disparities by race and ethnicity, health insurance and geography. Adding MCW, Marshfield Clinic and WHIO will extend the research across the state.

“This new collaboration brings tremendous synergy and capacity to extend the reach of both WPP and AHW across our state. We anticipate benefits to people in both rural and urban areas because we know that disparities exist in multiple settings in Wisconsin and have deepened even more because of the (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Richard Moss, senior associate dean at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and chair of WPP’s Partnership Education and Research Committee.

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