The Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute announced the winners of its 2018-2019 policy grants on Monday, Jan. 28, 2018. The grantees, which come from institutions across the TMC, are charged with pursuing research that spurs innovation and improves public health policy in Texas and beyond. Read more about the winners below, and click each for more information.
Addressing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents
A child can suffer wide-ranging, lifelong impacts when his or her parent is jailed, yet there is relatively little understanding today of how best to address those kids’ unique needs. The Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute is providing $94,784 to help local leaders determine the best ways to support children whose parents are incarcerated.
“Right now, virtually nothing is known about how we can help these children,” said Christopher Greeley, MD, the project’s principal investigator, who is vice chair of community health at Baylor College of Medicine’s pediatrics department and chief of public health pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office are working together on the research. Researchers hope to add questions to the jail intake form that will ask inmates about their children and the support they need. Researchers also plan on conducting interviews with inmates, as well as the people who take care of their children, to find out about the kids’ needs. (More information)
Implementing Telemedicine For Children with Complex Medical Conditions
The UT Physicians High Risk Children’s Clinic (HRCC) seeks to solve a major logistical challenge: Often, kids with the most complicated medical conditions have the hardest time getting to the doctor for treatment.
The Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute is providing $106,753 to support a new telemedicine and home visitation program that doctors hope will improve their ability to treat children with complex medical conditions while also saving money.
The unique clinic treats patients with conditions including cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and Down syndrome, among other conditions. But parents often have a hard time getting to the clinic, since it may involve a long commute, missing work, or the logistics of preparing medical equipment for travel. Time spent inside a clinic or hospital also increases the risk that patients can acquire life-threatening infections.
Under the telemedicine initiative, the clinic will attempt to triage and/or diagnose patients via video calls, eliminating the need for complicated and potentially dangerous transportation. “The families who’ve tried it already love it,” said Ricardo A. Mosquera, MD, medical director of the clinic. “They keep sending us videos.” UTHealth, Baylor College of Medicine, Memorial Hermann Health System, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and the Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth are participating in the study. (More information)
Developing a Warning System For Dangerous, Drug-Resistant Fungus
The Texas Medical Center will provide $203,785 to support the development of an “early warning system” that could detect whether a dangerous, drug-resistant strain of fungus exists in area hospitals.
The project targets a dangerous yeast called Candida auris, which first appeared in the U.S. in 2016. The yeast doesn’t respond to commonly used antifungal drugs, and 30 to 60 percent of patients infected with C. auris have died. As of Oct. 31, the CDC has confirmed 157 cases in the U.S. but none in Texas.
The grant supports the work of a team led by Kevin Garey, PharmD, FASHP, professor of pharmacy practice at University of Houston, to establish a system to conduct real-time monitoring that would detect whether the yeast exists in area hospitals.
“The problem with C. auris is we have a hard time diagnosing it, and by the time we actually diagnose it, many patients will have died,” Garey said. “If we could proactively look for it, that would be a game changer. University of Houston, Texas A&M Health Science Center, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Memorial Hermann Health System and CHI St. Luke’s Health are participating in the study. (More information)
Creating a Powerful New Tool For Policymakers
Policymakers often face a challenging dilemma: They want to make smart choices, but they’re overwhelmed with information. The Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute is providing $94,678 to support the development of a new tool that will help policymakers gauge the impact of their decisions on the health of their communities.
The project aims to assist policymakers as they evaluate how policies often considered outside the realm of public health nonetheless impact the health of residents. For example, it could be used to help policymakers decide where to direct investment in roads or schools, said John Prochaska, DrPH, assistant professor of preventive medicine and community health at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, who is leading the project.
An early iteration of the tool was developed to provide guidance on the best places to build public housing in Galveston in the wake of 2008’s Hurricane Ike. Researchers will initially use the tool in the seven-county area surrounding Bryan-College Station but eventually believe it can be used in any Texas community. Texas A&M University Health Science Center and University of Houston are also participating in the study. (More information)