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UTHSC Launches New Statewide Initiative to Improve Population Health

Dr. Jim Bailey

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center recently launched a new statewide initiative aimed at improving Tennesseans’ health outcomes, quality of life, and health equity. The Tennessee Population Health Consortium is dedicated to transforming primary care practices in Tennessee. Jim Bailey, MD, Robert S. Pearce Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine, professor of Medicine and Preventive Medicine, is the consortium’s executive director.

The overarching goal of the consortium is to shift primary care focus from pill-pushing to encouraging health behavior change using proven health coaching approaches. The consortium will conduct practice-based quality improvement and population health research initiatives to strengthen, support, and transform primary care practices across Tennessee.

To address the root causes driving Tennessee’s epidemic of obesity-associated chronic illness, the consortium is championing three main initiatives: the Tennessee Heart Health Network (launched in May with a $4.5 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Coalition, and the Cancer Prevention and Control Program. Each initiative provides specialized assistance to health care providers through opportunities for training, sharing best practices, and support for offering new preventive services for patients. In addition, the consortium is building a statewide population health data infrastructure, the Tennessee Population Health Data Network, to track health outcomes and improve heart health, diabetes, and cancer care across Tennessee.

The consortium is composed of interdisciplinary faculty, staff, and friends of UTHSC from its campuses in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, as well as the University of Tennessee. Key academic and health system partners across the state include Ascension Saint Thomas, Ballad Health, Christ Community Health Services, Church Health, Erlanger Health System, East Tennessee State University, ETSU Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Regional One Health, the University of Memphis, UT Medical Center, and West Tennessee Healthcare. Leading Tennessee health plans, health professional organizations, and advocacy organizations, including the Tennessee Medical Association, American Heart Association, and Tennessee American College of Physicians, are also supporting the effort.

“The launch of the consortium gives our partnering academic institutions, health systems, health plans, quality improvement organizations, providers, and patients across the state an historic opportunity to work together to improve the health of Tennesseans,” Dr. Bailey said. “For the first time, our UTHSC campuses across the state are contributing their substantial educational, training, information technology, and communications assets to explicitly support our statewide partners in their efforts to measurably improve health equity and population health. We are all focused on strengthening and supporting primary and preventive care, where the true heroes of our health care system can do the most lifesaving work,” he added. “We know that we will only be successful if we all work together for better health in Tennessee.”

To learn more about the Tennessee Population Health Consortium and to join as a member or partner organization, visit https://uthsc.edu/research/tn-population-health-consortium/ or contact tnpop@uthsc.edu.