June 1, 2018
Message from the Executive Director
Our Search for Innovation
Our mission at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Office of Population Science and Policy is to better understand and advance the health, development and wellness of residents in central and southern Illinois. Since our formation, our mission has been our constant, ensuring every decision we make is centered on serving our region and its residents. Implicit in that mission and a guiding force in the creation of our Office is a quest to discover. We look for existing and new ideas that could fundamentally change and improve the health of residents in our service area. The Office of Population Science and Policy was created, in part, to search for that innovation.   
It is hard not to roll your eyes when you hear the word “innovation." It has become a buzzword used so often that it is has almost lost its true meaning. For most, innovation means something new or different; a groundbreaking product or idea. However, to us, innovation is a little bit about new but mostly about exposing the existing – lifting the curtain to tell the story of ideas and programs that are already making a difference. Fortunate for us, our region is a hub of innovative ideas and programs designed to improve the health of central and southern Illinois. 
As our team has traveled across our 66 counties, we have found innovation in every nook and cranny of our region. It has come in many forms, led by individuals of every walk of life. We have found hospitals-turned-community centers , judges partnering with schools and mental health providers and teachers willing to take their call to service far beyond the confines of the classroom . At the center of every innovation is a group of dedicated, caring individuals willing to counter prevailing thoughts in search for different - and sometimes unusual - ways to make a difference. That, to us, is innovation. 
The Office of Population Science and Policy’s fourth issue of The Pioneer explores our search for innovation. Keep reading to learn more about the projects created to push forward research, policy and education initiatives.
As our Office continues to grow and evolve, we are working with many of you, our partners, to better understand why your innovations work and how we can bring those ideas and programs to the rest of the state. Our efforts would not be possible without your existing commitment to the health, wellness and development of the region that we all call home. Thank you for your commitment and partnership. We look forward to continuing to work together to improve the health of residents in central and southern Illinois.

Sameer Vohra , MD, JD, MA, FAAP
fostering innovation
Innovation is at the backbone of nearly everything we do in the Office of Population Science and Policy . From uncovering new ideas to the process of discovering different methods and perspectives, our goal is to continue to find sustainable ways to improve health in our service area of central and southern Illinois.

Keep reading to learn more about how our Science, Social Innovation and Policy Divisions are using innovation to advance their work.
The Science Division has embarked on new research projects that have real potential to move the needle on health outcomes in our service region. Current projects include identifying and reducing asthma triggers and cancer disparities in our service region.

Preventing Asthma Attacks
OPSP has been working with Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and the Illinois Department of Public Health on an asthma project designed to 1) proactively remove asthma triggers in homes in East St. Louis and 2) increase awareness of asthma triggers for both individuals with asthma and community members like landlords, building owners, teachers and healthcare providers. This program, which is part of the Illinois Asthma Partnership, sends trained personnel to make one or more home visits to conduct assessment activities. The activities focus on reducing exposures to a range of asthma triggers (allergens and irritants) through environmental assessment, education and remediation. After each assessment, a nurse creates a plan for a specified intervention for the person with asthma. Implementation includes educating the individual and/or the entire household to control asthma triggers, providing cleaning supplies and/or allergen avoidance materials and connecting clients to professional services like mold remediation and repairs.

In the past, asthma management was largely focused on surviving an attack. But this program's proactive approach works to prevent a dangerous asthma attack and costly visit to the emergency room. Furthermore, the community outreach and education components - including communication with and education of building managers, housing owners and HUD authorities - is a driving force to consider asthma triggers when designing or remodeling homes and apartments. So far, the program is setting clients on a path to proactive health.

Identifying Rural Cancer Disparities
Identifying the cause of health disparities in rural populations has long been a priority of OPSP and cancer health disparities have been a personal priority for OPSP senior research development coordinator Whitney Zahnd . Her research finds that cancer surveillance data can be used to help address cancer disparities in rural populations who have been under-represented in cancer research. This focus on rural populations shines a light on an oft-overlooked population - and her work has been recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which invited her to share this information at their rural cancer control conference last month.

“The NCI states that cancer surveillance tells us where we are in the effort to reduce the cancer burden,” said Zahnd. “Rural cancer surveillance research can play a major role in informing interventions and policies to reduce cancer rates and help identify new areas of research.”

While cancer surveillance data has been used for years to help describe cancer burden among different populations, new variables are being required to be collected by cancer registries. In 2010, cancer registries started to require information on HER2 status in breast cancer. This data enables researchers to characterize breast cancer cases as one of four subtypes and can be used to help better understand the causes of breast cancer disparities in different populations and help inform future interventions.
Innovation is an obvious focus of OPSP's newest division – and Social Innovation Director Jeanne Koehler and the Social Innovation team have been working to connect community innovators in central and southern Illinois to the resources needed for success and sustainable change. A crucial component of a social innovation partnership is that the Office of Population Science and Policy must be invited into a community by a community member who has identified a problem and wants to make it better. Achieving true, sustainable change is very difficult without this buy-in from a community member.
"In every community, there are unsung heroes and change agents trying to make a difference," explained Koehler. "These change agents rally others to their causes. But, they often face little or no resources to expand their important work."
OPSP serves as a conduit for assessing impact, securing resources and bringing together key individuals.
"Our Division can help fine-tune the process," she continued. "We can provide a qualitative action research approach to document innovations, identify potential resources, assess impact and explore sustainability. Everything we do is in collaboration with community members."

The Social Innovation Division's methods can be applied to almost any issue - but special consideration is given to issues that improve health and childhood development. To learn more about OPSP's Social Innovation Division or to discuss how OPSP can help pull the pieces together to create change in your community, email OPSP@siumed.edu .
OPSP’s Policy Division plays an important part in bringing sustainable change to local, state and national policies that affect the health of rural populations – and virtually no topic is more relevant than the nation’s opioid crisis and its disproportionate affect in rural areas.
The Policy Division is currently working to help better understand state legislation and policies around opioids. Along with researchers from the University of Chicago, the OPSP Policy team is creating a database of policies that have been enacted to reduce opioid overdose deaths and rehabilitate users. The database will include causal diagrams to show which solutions work – and which do not – and will then be used to inform new ways to address the epidemic. Some approaches may include needle exchange or prescription drug monitoring programs.

"This project challenges the normal way policies are enacted," explains Policy Director Carolyn Pointer . "Rather than gathering evidence to prove that existing policies need to change, we are trying to identify and implement policy solutions early in the research process. We hope to play a part in reducing the staggering number of deaths, suffering and financial cost caused by the opioid epidemic."
meet our newest team members
Rebecca Bolinski
Graduate Assistant
“I’m very excited to join the Office of Population Science and Policy. I look forward to conducting interviews and collaborating on manuscripts for the ETHIC grant.”

Learn more about Rebecca.
Kara Bowlin
Director of External Relations
"I’m thrilled to join OPSP as Director of External Relations. My goal is to increase awareness of and raise funds to support the incredible work the Office is doing to improve the health and wellness of residents in central and southern Illinois.”

Learn more about Kara.
Tracie Johnson
Assistant Instructor
“What an honor to join such a diverse and experienced team! I look forward to supporting the future doctors and health care providers of central and southern Illinois and working toward improved health through our social innovation projects.”

Learn More about Tracie.
upcoming events
Social Innovation Director Jeanne Koehler will participate on a panel titled "Health and Nutrition in Subsistence Marketplaces" at the 2018 Subsistence Marketplaces Conference in Champaign, Ill., from June 22-24.
Social Innovation Director Jeanne Koehler will be presenting a poster titled "Collaborative Problem Based Learning to Foster School Health Innovation: Focusing on Trauma Informed Schools" at the School Based Health Alliance in Indianapolis from June 24-27.
Save the Date!
Please join the Office of Population Science and Policy on Sept. 19 for a reception celebrating the Office's innovative partnerships with community stakeholders to improve health outcomes in central and southern Illinois.

RSVP now!
Connect With Us
Office of Population Science & Policy
201 E. Madison Street
Springfield, IL 62702
(217) 545-7939