Signature Program to Strengthen
Public Health, Community Service
uring hearings before the General Assembly last winter it became clear that many legislative leaders were unaware of the vital work the Health Center does in communities across the state. This realization led to the creation of the Connecticut Health initiative, one of four signature programs in the Health Center's Strategic Plan.
Of the signature programs, Connecticut Health is the only one that does not promote the translation of advanced research to innovations in clinical care. Instead, it embodies an inherent aspect of the Health Center's role as an academic medical center: improving the health of all Connecticut citizens.
Connecticut Health is charged with supporting and helping facilitate a wide range of community-based initiatives in which Health Center faculty, students or staff play pivotal roles.
"This represents a new way of focusing on areas of need and sharing our resources with other state agencies, non-profit groups and local communities. It's a new focus on public health and community service," says Charles Huntington, who is providing administrative support for the project. He also is associate director of the Connecticut Area Health Education Center.
Since July, a committee has been meeting regularly to establish goals for the initiative's first year. Connecticut Health is being led by Howard Bailit, director of Health Policy and Primary Care Research, and Robert Trestman, vice chair of clinical affairs for the Department of Psychiatry.
Each of the initial projects will require significant administrative and clinical resources, creativity and hard work, Bailit stresses. In addition, some of the initiatives will require additional funding from state agencies. Bailit also expects further goals to develop.
One of the first tasks has been to create an inventory of current Health Center projects that fall under the Connecticut Health umbrella. The database will be able to generate reports according to state legislative districts, offering legislators and the public easy access to timely information about the Health Center's contributions to local communities. The database, which is still under construction, will be accessible through the Health Center's Web site. It is expected to be on-line by early 2001.
"This will catalogue descriptions of all the efforts where the Health Center adds value to communities and reaches out to underserved populations," Bailit says. Examples include dental care for people with mental retardation and other special needs; outreach initiatives to promote health in schools; delivering care to people in prisons; and providing free treatment for people with drug addictions, alcoholism or gambling problems.
All these efforts provide direct benefits to populations with specific needs and, at the same time, offer opportunities for faculty and students to provide public education services, deliver care and conduct research.
"The database will organize information about the ways the Health Center is working with community organizations to provide care and improve services," Huntington adds. "Ultimately, it will help to tell an important but little known story about the Health Center."
The new projects Connecticut Health is supporting include:
Expanded services for pregnant women at high risk: Working with community hospitals in northern Connecticut, this program would improve ways to screen and triage women at risk of delivering low or very low birth weight babies and is expected to result in healthier pregnancies, healthier babies, and ultimately less strain on health care resources. It will use existing Health Center strengths in highly specialized areas including the maternal and infant transport system and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.