Professers contribute to launch of online health center

Brandi Doyal, Staff Reporter

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The Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the Louisiana Public Heath Institute are teaming up to create the Health Systems Analytics Research Center, an online center that will use statistics to better the practices and policies of the health care industry in New Orleans and Louisiana.

Tulane public health professors Shi Lizheng and Mark Diana are partnering with LPHI officials Thomas Carton and Anjum Khurshid to create the online collaboration. Lizheng said the purpose of this new center is to bring people together who can fix problems in the New Orleans healthcare system.

“We try to put together the brightest minds to deal with public health issues in New Orleans,” Lizheng said. “In the New Orleans area, some neighborhoods have a lot of issues and disparity. We are working for an institute that will work with them to evaluate all those problems, and hopefully, we can develop a strategy to further transform primary care.”

Diana said the center is unique because other academic institutions doing similar research may not have the resources to apply the research in the community. LPHI is in direct contact with health care providers and can apply the research results to their policies, helping to mend healthcare issues. The idea is to make informed decisions from analyzing data gathered from every aspect of healthcare to better health outcomes.

Anjum Khurshid, director of health systems development at LPHI, said the new direction of evidence-based decision-making is important in the field of public health.

“We will be making our services more patient centered and focusing on health outcomes,” Khurshid said. “These are all transformational changes in the health system and have to be guided by evidence and data rather than just people’s opinions.”

This new center will provide professional development and training opportunities for junior researchers and students at Tulane. Student interns will be assisting in data analysis, which consists of various types of projects, including using big data from clinical, administrative or financial records.  

“We have envisioned having students involved from the beginning,” Diana said. “We want to bring students in to help with the data analysis and formation of policy questions. This area of evidence-based decision-making is only going to become more important for those who are students now. You are going to have tons of data at your disposal, and you are going to have to figure out how to use that data to make intelligent, evidence-based decisions.”