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Public Health Researchers to Launch a Trauma-Informed and Responsive Care Initiative

Roderick King, M.D., MPH, and Joseph West, Sc.D., M.S., two researchers from the Miller School's Department of Public Health Sciences, were recently awarded a two-year grant from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to address gaps in health equity, responsive care needs related to trauma, and adaptive lifestyle behaviors in young men.

The epidemiologic study and community-based intervention is a collaboration between the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences, Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services Department, and the Florida Institute for Health Innovation (FIHI). The goal is to use Mobile Health Technology (mHealth) for screening, education and outreach, use mHealth applications to increase access to mental health and healthcare services and workforce development to vulnerable populations between the ages of 17 to 30.

“Our approach is innovative in that we are assessing for mental health, trauma and their association with multiple risk factors including comorbidities,” Dr. King said. “For this phase one of the intervention, we are measuring the opportunity costs that are associated with developing peer-to-peer community health specialists with capabilities for extending reach for healthcare services.”

Dr. King, who is the director of the M.D./M.P.H. program and assistant dean for public health education at the Miller School, is the co-investigator leading the medical care health systems strategy. Dr. West, a voluntary professor of public health, also at Miller School, and co-principal investigator of the project, is leading the community-based intervention, mHealth, and population health analysis.

In partnership with the Miami-Dade Juvenile Services Department, they will begin implementing a training curriculum to identify candidates and prepare them to conduct health screening and basic trauma-informed interviews using mobile devices. The surveys will determine the types of traumatic experiences, the location of episodes and focus groups to identify follow-up health services needed for the population.  

“This initiative centers on community-based solutions to improve access to primary care and sustainable intervention models by assessing the life cycle of young men between ages of 17 and 30 in Miami-Dade,” Dr. West said. “We are focused on 10 of Miami’s underserved zip codes to build a learning community supportive of primary care, responsive care, and social and economic assistance for trauma-informed care for a population that is typically marginalized in healthcare.”

This study examines the economics of providing trauma-informed services, gathering qualitative data through focus groups and interviews and identifying the best approaches for the promotion of adaptive health behaviors.

“Establishing a framework to reduce the prevalence of trauma, paying for the right services for cultivating restorative justice, as well as for community-based social support is vital to public health,” Dr. King said.

Dr. West and Dr. King will also be working with FIHI to collaborate with policymakers, community stakeholders, Federally Qualified Health Centers, hospitals, community college or vocational programs, and programs providing reentry and mental health services.

Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services Department is an important partner in this work as it aligns with the core program that is needed to keep young men positively engaged and actively participating in their communities through workforce development. It is also an opportunity for positive peer-to-peer modeling and for youth in juvenile service departments to be exposed to public health, nursing, and health care professions.

“The data from this work will be groundbreaking as we will be assessing where potential cost saving can occur due to preventive care and early intervention, as well as deepening our knowledge of barriers to treatment unique to these young men and Miami-Dade,” Dr. West said.

“We are extremely excited about this phase of the work, as it sets the table for our longer-term economic and policy approach to address fundamental systematic payor gaps, public health needs, and cavernous holes in care and follow-through,” Dr. West added.

Written by Dr. Joseph West in collaboration with Amanda Torres
Published on October 2, 2019