Deans highlight power of collaborations to impact Ohioans' health

Published: January 14, 2022 Author: Staff reports

Three of Ohio University’s colleges are having a significant impact on the state’s health care system. By working together and with a variety of external partners, they are showing just how powerful such collaborations can be.

The deans of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, the College of Health Sciences and Professions and the Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Service shared a few examples of that collaboration with the Ohio University Board of Trustees during its meeting on Friday.

“Together, our colleges with our partners are working on an array of health services, infrastructure and support that will enable our communities to thrive for decades to come said Kenneth Johnson, D.O., executive dean of the Heritage College and OHIO’s chief medical affairs officer, said.

The innovative organizational structures of the three colleges, along with collaborations with external partners, provide the opportunity to impact health care in a variety of ways. The Heritage College grounds health care within an academic health system; CHSP organizes impact programs through an Ohio health alliance; and the Voinovich School operates as a public-private partnership. The efforts are reflected through the over three-year collaborations of their faculty, staff, professionals and partners through the Ohio University Health Collaborative.

“Our structure and external partners allow us to address social determinants of health across the state, and in some cases nationally and globally,” College of Health Sciences and Professions Interim Dean John McCarthy said. “Ohio University has a number of excellent programs and our collaborative efforts serve to amplify our impact and make a real difference in the lives of Ohioans and more.”

One of the examples highlighted is the vaccine clinics that have been held in Heritage Hall, new home of the Heritage College in Athens, during the pandemic, in partnership with the Athens City-County Health Department. Students in the College of Health Sciences and Professions have worked with children ages 5 to 11 to help ease their anxiety about getting a vaccine, while medical and nursing students have gained practical experience by administering vaccines.

All three colleges have done extensive work to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Heritage College has delivered vaccines to area counties via its mobile clinics; the Voinovich School has helped businesses and local governments access emergency funding; and the College of Health Sciences and Professions has worked with Voinovich to track COVID data by county.

On a broader level, the Voinovich School was recently chosen to coordinate a new center of excellence focused on building infrastructure and capacity to address the mental, emotional and behavioral health by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The school will coordinate with county Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health boards, faith-based organizations, prevention agencies, schools, and community service organizations to help prevent overdoses, addiction and suicides.

The University was also recently awarded $500,000 by the Appalachian Regional Commission to help people in recovery to obtain soft and hard skills, develop entrepreneurial capacities, and gain meaningful employment. OHIO will partner with a number of agencies and work with makerspaces in Athens and Perry counties to offer training in recovery-friendly environments. The project is run through the OHIO Alliance for Population Health in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, with support from the Voinovich School in training and assistance through its LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network and Social Enterprise Ecosystem.

“Collectively we have such a strong network of partners and collaborators that we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to do everything we can to ensure our citizens and communities have the resources they need to stay healthy and vibrant,” Voinovich School Dean Mark Weinberg said. “This not only gives our students, faculty and professionals the opportunity to put their education into practice, but demonstrates the impact that public service can truly have on our region and our state.”

Moving forward, the collaborative has three areas to focus on next.

  • Workforce development: The colleges are focusing on identifying areas of need, growing the local health care work force, and increasing access to work force preparedness programs.
  • Gathering data for community needs: The colleges want to leverage data and analytics to champion efficient, effective targeting of medical and health interventions that address community needs.
  • Expanding services: The focus is on prioritizing investments that expand and refine service-delivery methods.