Volume 2.5 | August 1, 2018
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's Population Science and Policy is excited to bring you The Pioneer Pulse, a monthly supplement to our larger quarterly newsletter, The Pioneer .
EXPLORING RURAL HEALTH
We will have a significant presence at this year's Illinois Rural Health Association 's Annual Educational Conference on August 8-9. As a large majority of our service area is rural, we are tirelessly considering the disparities and difficulties that Illinois' rural residents face when it comes to health and wellness. We view it as our duty to help others recognize and understand the challenges our rural friends and neighbors encounter in many aspects of their everyday lives.

Rural residents face geographic isolation, lower socioeconomic status, higher rates of health risk behaviors and limited job opportunities. Demographics show that rural populations are older, poorer and have fewer physicians to care for them than their urban counterparts. In rural areas, one in 6 children have a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder - and children are often raised by adults facing the same issues. Rural cancer disparities include higher rates of tobacco use, HPV, and lung and bronchus, cervical, and colorectal cancers. Opioid overdose deaths are 45 percent higher in rural areas compared to urban areas. Rural residents have a lower percentage of accessible primary care physicians and specialists, and 83 rural hospitals in 26 states have closed since January 2010.

And yet, rural areas cover about 97 percent of the nation's land area and contain about 20 percent of the population.

That's why our work is critically important. We work to understand and advance the health, development and wellness of residents in central and southern Illinois. We work within communities to help provide tangible, sustainable solutions to some of their most pressing issues. Please let us know if you would like to learn more about the services we provide or if you would like a copy of our presentation from the Illinois Rural Health Association's Annual Conference.
JOIN OUR TEAM
We are growing and we are looking for talented individuals to help advance our mission of understanding and improving the health, development and wellness of people in central and southern Illinois.

Population Science: We're recruiting individuals to provide operational support for our community-based social innovation, education, research, and policy integration efforts. (Minimum qualification is a BA/BS.)

Biostatistics/Bioinformatics/Clinical Epidemiology: We're seeking individuals with a focus on quantitative epidemiologic and outcomes research for Population Science and Policy programs. Creating databases, computer and statistical programming, research development and study design will all be in a day's work - and we're looking for individuals with specific expertise in behavioral and population-based research.

If you are interested in any of these positions - or if you would like additional information - please email for more information.
TACKLING THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC
The national opioid crisis has far-reaching effects - and rural regions (like the majority of our service area) are disproportionately impacted by opioid addiction. SIU Population Science and Policy is working to learn more about opioid use in our service region to help curb the crisis. Keep reading to learn more about our grant-funded programs:

IMPACT: This pilot study, led by SIU's Dr. Wiley Jenkins , aims to understand the association between opioid use, HIV status, and the types and numbers of bacteria that reside in the human mouth. These bacteria in turn may influence oral infection with Chlamydia trachomatis and/or Neisseria gonorrhoeae (CT/GC). We hope to examine how oral microbiome constituency may vary by opioid use and HIV status and to examine how oral sexually transmitted infections might be associated with opioid use and HIV status and with variations in oral microbiome constituency (if present).

We are recruiting with the assistance of The Phoenix Center, which currently provides HIV and STI testing as well as a needle exchange program for much of central and southern Illinois. Males who consent to participate will be treated for HIV status, STI infections and provide a sample of their oral microbiome. The oral microbiome sample will be sent to Washington University in St. Louis, where it will be analyzed. To obtain more information or participate in this study, please contact Dr. Wiley Jenkins .

ETHIC/PWID: This study, in conjunction with the University of Chicago, investigates the opioid and injection drug use epidemic in the southern 16 counties of Illinois and aims to develop and implement sustainable interventions to decrease injection drug use. Leading this study are SIU's Dr. Wiley Jenkins and University of Chicago's Dr. Mai Pho, and they are working with multiple agencies downstate (including local health departments and harm reduction agencies) to recruit participants to answer questions about drug use and risky behaviors. Participants will be entered into a social network inventory of drug users.

We also hope to conduct at least 30 interviews of stakeholders from around the southern Illinois area as well as up to 40 individuals who inject drugs. These interviews will obtain information about stigma and perception of drug use, as well as other information that may be important in the development of successful interventions. For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Mai Pho or Dr. Wiley Jenkins .

We look forward to sharing our results and developing sustainable solutions to improve the opioid epidemic in Illinois.
IN THE NEWS
Jennifer Whitaker from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Policy Lab learned about our Little Leaps project during Dr. Sameer Vohra and Heather Westrick 's presentation at the National Rural Health Association conference in New Orleans. Her blog uses our project with Hillsboro Area Hospital as an example of how hospitals can contribute to improved population health and community well-being in rural areas.

For more news and updates, follow us on social media: Facebook , Twitter and LinkedIn .
UPCOMING EVENTS
Population Science and Policy is excited to present at the upcoming Illinois Rural Health Association (IRHA) Annual Conference. Our session, titled "Building Healthy Illinois Rural Communities - Regional Approaches to Population Health" will be led by Heather Westrick, Administrative Director, Amanda Fogleman, Senior Research Development Coordinator, Christofer Rodriguez, Population Science Research Specialist, and Thomas Albers, Health Policy Specialist.
Dr. Sameer Vohra and Social Innovation Director Jeanne Koehler will be presenting at the Ameren Illinois Joint Public Information Center Meeting Room in Decatur on August 9 as a part of the Trauma-Informed Partnership, a joint collaboration between the Macon-Piatt Regional Office of Education, the Illinois Education Association, the Education Coalition of Macon County and SIU School of Medicine. The event aims to spread awareness of the impact of toxic stress and adverse experiences. Reservations are required.
Office of Population Science and Policy faculty and staff are routinely invited to speak at local, statewide and national events. If you are interested in learning more about our Office or would like to have a member of the Office attend or speak at your local event, please contact us at opsp@siumed.edu .
CELEBRATE WITH US
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. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks!
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