New University of Houston initiative aims to study health in a broader context

The new program will provide study and research opportunities for students in fields not directly related to health care, with the goal of improving long-term health outcomes in Houston and beyond.

By Addie Costello, Alexandra Hart & Shelly BrisbinFebruary 1, 2022 7:40 am,

The University of Houston is launching a first-of-its-kind project to address long-term health inequities in the United States. Despite spending more on health care than any other developed nation, health outcomes in this country are poor.

Bettina Beech, University of Houston’s chief population health officer, told Texas Standard that the project is neither a program nor a center, rather it’s a multidisciplinary, university-wide initiative to investigate the roots of health care inequities.

“We’re really talking about various populations – subgroups of populations,” Beech said. “So the University of Houston students, faculty and staff, could be seen as a subpopulation. But we’re looking far beyond the borders of the University of Houston.”

Beech says the initiative, which has received some $37 million in grant funding, has been underway for some time, but was announced to the public last week.

University of Houston students, regardless of their major, will be able to take courses and participate in research programs addressing health inequities. Beech says population health takes a broad view of health that extends beyond simply providing health care services.

“More health care does not necessarily buy us more health,” she said. “So we would like students to learn about health informatics. Those of us that go to the doctor have a portal that we engage with our physician to get our test records. That is a way to engage with people, to be healthier.”

The initiative will also focus on health literacy and the relationship between health and other aspects of life, like housing and transportation, Beech says.

She says the initiative will give all students a way to focus on the impact of health on the disciplines they study, even those outside the health field.

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