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University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center Launches Wide-Reaching Effort To Eliminate Health Disparities With Pilot Project At UPMC Braddock Called “Steps To A Healthy Community”

PITTSBURGH, September 21, 2005 — UPMC Braddock, in cooperation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), has developed a new health care delivery model to address the issue of health disparities, with the goal of rolling it out in the future at other UPMC hospitals.

The new program, called “Steps to a Healthy Community,” is already being piloted in several Woodland Hills and Steel Valley communities within the hospital’s service area.

“As a recognized leader in innovative health care, UPMC is taking a leadership role in the effort to eliminate health disparities,” noted Elizabeth Concordia, senior vice president for academic and community hospitals. “UPMC Braddock serves the needs of many people currently identified at greater risk for a number of health concerns due to a variety of socio-economic factors. The hospital already has an effective infrastructure within the community to allow us to deliver UPMC’s resources to make a real difference. Following the success of this pilot effort, we expect to introduce the program throughout western Pennsylvania.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines health disparities as “the differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.” These population groups include race/ethnicity, gender, age, income, rural/urban geographic location, sexual orientation, housing status, occupation, health behaviors and insurance status.

Steps to a Healthy Community will utilize and build upon existing community health collaborations such as the Braddock Community Partnership; the UPMC Braddock Dental Center; the Healthy For Life summer camp program; the House of HOPE shelter and treatment program for young, pregnant or post-partum addicted women; and the soon-to-be-completed YMCA Wellness Center at UPMC Braddock.

Steps to a Healthy Community targets specific health issues defined in the NIH Healthy People 2010 goals, which include asthma, diabetes, infant mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The initial steps of the program are already up and running targeting asthma and diabetes.

“The name of our program is descriptive,” said Mark Sevco, UPMC Braddock’s president. “We are tackling the Healthy People 2010 goals in steps to allow us time to evaluate each initiative’s effectiveness. We have already introduced an asthma intervention effort within our communities, and we’re kicking off an aggressive diabetes prevention program. We are firmly committed to keeping everyone in our community healthy, one step at a time.”

The rate of both pediatric and adult asthma in parts of the UPMC Braddock service area is twice that of the rest of Allegheny County. Working with the hospital’s emergency department, UPMC’s Prehospital Care Department, and area EMS providers, Steps to a Healthy Community has identified families struggling with asthma and utilizes ambulance personnel to make home visits to evaluate the home environment and eliminate asthma triggers, provide medication management and assist with follow-up care.

The UPMC Braddock Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program, in cooperation with the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute, provides free screenings for diabetes risk factors throughout the community. Those identified as pre-diabetic in the screenings have the opportunity to participate in a diabetes prevention study. The study provides free exercise and nutrition programs designed to delay or prevent the development of diabetes.

Steps to a Healthy Community focuses on health education, detection and intervention in many non-traditional settings. “Access to health care is the key to eliminating health disparities,” according to Robert Smith, M.D., University of Pittsburgh Physicians, department of family medicine, who serves as medical liaison for the initiative.

“What we’re doing is tearing down the walls that keep people from the resources that are available for their good health. We are taking our programs into the homes, into the community centers and into the churches in an effort to provide ultimate access to everyone. We are involving all of the care providers within the community in planning and implementing Steps to a Healthy Community to make it as comprehensive and effective as possible,” said Dr. Smith.

UPMC Braddock’s Steps to a Healthy Community program is chaired by Rodney Jones, vice-president of operations. “The opportunity to lead this exciting initiative and make a difference in the lives of people is the primary reason that I came here to UPMC Braddock,” Mr. Jones said. “We already have a lot of wonderful programs in place that are helping people, and our focus will be to coordinate these efforts to really focus on improving the health of our community. That’s what will eliminate health disparities,” he added.

Mr. Jones has already organized a network of women and children’s health providers to begin planning for the next step toward a healthy community – reducing infant mortality and enhancing maternal and child health.

Future initiatives will focus on eliminating disparities in heart health and promoting cancer prevention and early detection. For more information regarding “Steps to a Healthy Community,” contact Mr. Jones at 412-636-5401.

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