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University of Louisville Creates Institute to Address Health Disparities in Kentucky

  The University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS) is planning to launch the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky in 2015.

The institute will work with community organizations to gather data, analyze issues and, it hopes, improve public health. It is funded with the help of a three-year, $4 million investment from KentuckyOne Health.

Craig Blakely, dean of SPHIS, said with so much change occurring in healthcare, there is a need to look for multi-level approaches to care.

"This platform provides us with an opportunity to change the way we deliver services and try to prevent problems on a population level," he said.

The institute will aim to provide expertise in health-decision making, cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis of health initiatives, and overall health program evaluation.

Blakely said there will also be a heavy emphasis on policy-relevant research. 

"You can do projections on policy changes that might be put in place and if you did what are the potential implications and you can also then assess policies that have already been put in place and look at whether or not you've had the impact that was intended,"he said.

Blakely said there are three areas the institute will focus on when it opens its doors: developing a new neighborhood focused health literacy program, examining and improving the Affordable Care Act rollout in Jefferson County and addressing the cost of violence among at-risk youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

He said the ACA will not benefit Kentuckians if they don't know how to utilize the health-care system. He also said focusing on violence may be off the beaten path, but it plays a part in a community's health and well-being.

"The Affordable Care Act has redefined parameters in ways that allow for resources to be distributed in ways far outside of traditional patient-physician services. Now, they are interested in things that have to do with community health," he said.

Blakely said they will work with the Metro Louisville Department of Health and Wellness, the Louisville Metro Board of Health, the Kentucky State Data Center and the Office of Health Policy in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

UofL's Board of Trustees is expected to approve the institute early next year.