Medications to Improve Population Health
First-of-its-Kind Research Center Focuses on Intersection of Population Health and Pharmacoepidemiology
May 4 — A unique, new research center based out of the University of Houston College of Pharmacy aims to improve population health outcomes through education, research and service initiatives focused on the multidisciplinary field of pharmacoepidemiology, a bridge science that examines the use and effects of drugs in large populations.
The Center for Population Health Outcomes and Pharmacoepidemiology Education and Research (P-HOPER Center) is the first of its kind in the nation to study population health outcomes through the lens of pharmacoepidemiology, whereas most population health centers in the U.S. geared toward overall public health perspectives, such as how the social environment and health care system position in hierarchies, social connection and networks affect health. The new center was approved by the university's Research and Scholarship Committee on April 21.
"These synergic areas (population health and pharmacoepidemiology) are of national importance as many of the population health goals require pharmaceutical products, such as vaccines, medicinal agents and others for the prevention and treatment of diseases," said center director Rajender R. Aparasu, Ph.D., FAPhA, UHCOP Mustafa & Sanober Lokhandwala Endowed Professor and chair of the college's Department of Pharmaceutical Health Outcomes and Policy.
"Our center is uniquely positioned to strengthen the partnership between public health and pharmacy, help remove the barriers to collaborations, and promote the integration of population-based pharmaceuticals outcomes assessment into community health needs assessments, disease surveillance, and monitoring of health outcomes."
Within the area of education, the center aims to offer professional development and academic experiences to undergraduate, professional and graduate students interested in population health and pharmacoepidemiology. Student programs are expected to include mentorship, internships, fellowships and interdisciplinary programs designed to improve knowledge, skills and technical abilities through innovative and collaborative research, education and practices.
Population health improvement requires research and interventions from complementary disciplinary approaches such as medicine, pharmacy, nursing, psychology, data science, epidemiology, economics, health services research, humanities and public policy. In the research sphere, the center and its members are positioned to build on existing collaborations and create new ones among health professionals, health care providers and community members aimed at reducing health disparities and achieving health equity.
Creation of educational programming for practitioners and researchers, such as seminars, symposia and continuing education programs, also are envisioned to provide opportunities for practitioners and researchers to engage in knowledge dissemination and collaboration under the overall goal of improving population health outcomes in Houston, Texas and nationwide.
In Houston specifically, the intersection of chronic diseases and poverty/uninsured status among portions of the local population present short- and long-term implications for health outcomes. For example, approximately 22% of Houstonians lack health insurance compared to nearly 9% of the U.S. population and more than 20% of Houstonians live below the Federal Poverty Level compared to 14% of the U.S. population. Among chronic health conditions, for example, adult diabetes in Houston is 3% higher than the Texas average and almost 5% higher than the U.S. average.
Serving with Aparasu as inaugural members of the center are fellow UHCOP faculty members Hua Chen, Ph.D., M.D., who also serve as P-HOPER Center assistant director; Susan Abughosh, Ph.D., professor; E. James Essien, DrPH, M.D., professor; and Jeffrey Sherer, Pharm.D., BCGP, clinical professor.
"The dual mission of the center to develop critical research and education initiatives designed to analyze and improve our global health outcomes and to create effective and innovative healthcare approaches for the citizens of Texas and beyond has great potential benefits," noted UHCOP Dean F. Lamar Pritchard, Ph.D., R.Ph., in a letter of support for the center.