The WVU Health Affairs Institute has been named the state’s first public health institute | Electronic news

The WVU Health Affairs Institute, formerly the Office of Health Affairs, joins the National Network of Institutes of Public Health as the first member representing West Virginia. This designation benefits the university and state through national visibility, resource networks, technical assistance, and direct funding opportunities.

The WVU Health Affairs Institute was launched in 2017 under the vision and leadership of Dr. Jeff Coben, who currently serves as Interim Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, through a formal state-university partnership. Health Affairs provides the administrative infrastructure for this partnership—recognized by the national group AcademyHealth—which supports West Virginia’s progress in health services program development, monitoring and evaluation. In 2018, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation provided a two-year grant that helped the partnership move forward.

Summer Hartley, interim associate vice president of the WVU Health Affairs Institute, has led the development of the institute since 2019.

“Since its inception, Health Affairs has had a positive, recognizable impact on the health of West Virginians,” Hartley said. “As a third-generation West Virginian, I am proud to see the population benefits associated with the findings of our health data management, evaluation and analysis teams become real evidence that our state health leaders and legislators can use to inform about the change. We have strong success stories, particularly our evaluation of home and community-based children’s mental health services, which have supported recent improvements in our state’s child welfare initiatives. Almost every day, we see how our work together goes hand-in-hand with WVU’s land grant mission.”

In 2020, Health Affairs opened a second location in Charleston and moved from part of the School of Public Health to a stand-alone unit at HSC. Late last year, the WVU Board of Regents approved the name WVU Health Affairs Institute in recognition of its continued growth and innovation.

The WVU Health Affairs Institute supports the university’s three-pronged mission of teaching, research and service. More than 20 WVU faculty affiliates receive external funding from Health Affairs through various research and evaluation projects, and more than 30 WVU students have benefited from experiential learning opportunities, including graduate project support, work-to-work partnerships, and tuition and paid assistantships for PhD students. Students like Matthew Myers apply theories and methods to real-world problems in the region by analyzing state data and seeing projects through from start to finish.

With a team of nearly 100 highly qualified academics and professionals, the WVU Health Affairs Institute leads program development and management, large-scale program evaluation, public impact research and health data analysis in collaboration with partners in West Virginia. The impact of this work has improved data-driven decision making and expanded effective community health improvement programs across the country.

For example, the Mountain States Assessment of Public Health Trends, developed by the Institute of Health Affairs in partnership with DHHR, is a new biennial population health survey that collects representative information from all 55 counties. MATCH data will be publicly available through a web request tool in May 2023. Expanding the Overdose Data to Action project helps emergency departments across the state connect substance use disorder patients with life-saving resources. An evaluation of state policy changes for COVID-19 in Medicaid helped determine what might continue to work well in a post-pandemic environment, such as offering more telehealth options.

Starting this summer, Health Affairs will offer a training program on Medicaid administrative data. This online course, among the first of its kind in the nation, uses SAS programming and real-world applications to teach analysts and researchers about the structure and formation of variables in Medicaid databases that can be used to strengthen research.

To learn more about the WVU Health Affairs Institute, including how to get involved in our projects, faculty partnership program, upcoming trainings and experiential learning opportunities, write to [email protected].

The West Virginia University Health Affairs Institute is a data-driven, service-based team located in the WVU Health Sciences Center. We leverage the university’s R1 research designation and land-grant mission to serve our state and nation by offering expertise in program development, project management, large-scale program evaluation, community impact research, and health data analytics , to affect positive social change and improve lives in West Virginia and beyond.

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