February 1, 2019
Message from the Chair
The Power of Your Partnership

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine made a big, bold statement when it launched the Department of Population Science and Policy. In creating this department, SIU SOM demonstrated it is ready to expand its social mission in central and southern Illinois and work with communities to address the health needs of its residents. Now, the institution reaches far beyond clinic and hospital walls to help people in the places they live, learn, work and play.

Within that big, bold statement is also an acknowledgement of the school’s limitations. The Department of Population Science and Policy cannot do this challenging work on its own. It needs help. It needs partners. The Department needs all of you.

From the beginning, we recognized real potential to make a difference in the health of residents in central and southern Illinois. However, we also had concerns about the willingness of residents to work with us. I had witnessed examples of local teachers, farmers, nurses and others giving their all to lift themselves, their families and their neighbors to be healthier and more successful. These individuals are real life heroes, and we knew our passion would have to match theirs. So, we traveled across our 66 counties to listen and learn. Our most important lesson was discovering our ultimate success is dependent on supporting the innovative work already happening in the communities we serve.

Our mutual success requires unleashing the power of our partnerships. 

As our population science and policy efforts enter our third year, we are humbled by the number of communities and individuals we count as partners and friends. We have met with parents, teachers, hospital CEOs, judges, community leaders and many more to discover and implement innovative solutions to improve health outcomes. The Department has formed collaborations with nearly 20 communities in our service region, and we are excited for that number to continue to grow. 

Our Department of Population Science and Policy’s first issue of The Pioneer in 2019 explores a few of our special partnerships in greater detail. Some we sought; others found us. Together, we have started the connections necessary to improve health outcomes. We’re proud to outline some of those partnerships in this newsletter. These partnerships have allowed us to take on increasingly big initiatives. The Department is also excited to announce the launch of our Advisory Board , a group of nationally renowned and dedicated experts who will provide insight on how our Department can continue to advance its ambitious mission. 

The Department has built a foundation of success, but we are just getting started. We know that there is so much more work to do, and we continue to seek additional partners to build a healthier region. Please continue to think of us as a resource and never hesitate to share your story with us by phone, email or social media .

Thank you for your commitment, your dedication and the power of your partnership. We look forward to our continued work together to improve the health of residents in central and southern Illinois.

Sameer Vohra , MD, JD, MA, FAAP
Communities thrive when members share ideas and resources to work toward a common goal. That’s why our Department of Population Science and Policy (PSP) places a huge emphasis on being invited to communities in which we work. That invitation signifies that the community is ready to invest time and effort to achieve shared goals. We work directly with community stakeholders of all types: nonprofits with shared interests, law enforcement and the justice system, school districts, public health departments and hospitals. Our team is able to provide a fresh perspective and we offer the ability to identify and pull together resources in new and innovative ways. We listen and learn – and then work in conjunction with the community to develop and implement interventions that create positive, sustainable change.

We are proud to celebrate some of our partners in this issue of The Pioneer. We look forward to identifying new partners as we introduce a host of new projects this year.
Hospitals are a huge asset to the communities they serve. Hospitals not only provide important healthcare services but can also act as community centers. Furthermore, hospitals and health systems are often the largest employers in cities and towns throughout central and southern Illinois. Our Department is fortunate to have strong partnerships with many hospitals and healthcare centers in our service region.

The Department of Population Science and Policy is working with leaders at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital to create a project based on its community health needs assessment. Community health needs assessments ensure hospitals have the information required to provide services that meet local needs and provide opportunities to improve coordination of hospital community benefits with other efforts to improve health.

One of our strongest partnerships is with the innovative leaders at Hillsboro Area Hospital . Here, our Little Leaps project works within the hospital’s on-site child development center to analyze parent/child interaction strategies to aid in baby brain development. The Department is also working with Hillsboro Area Hospital on a project to understand Montgomery County residents' smoking habits and views concerning lung cancer screening.
School Districts
Strong schools and strong communities go hand in hand.

PSP is working within Decatur Public Schools as a member of the Trauma-Informed Partnership (TIP) of Macon-Piatt County . TIP provides learning opportunities to help teachers, administrators, caregivers and law enforcement recognize signs of childhood trauma and react appropriately to children who experience trauma.

The Department also has an ongoing project within Sangamon Valley Schools in Illiopolis where PSP aims to understand how elementary age students view nutrition. Researchers are using innovative games and individual interviews to learn how 5 th graders think about nutrition at school and at home.
Health Departments
Health Departments provide incredibly valuable insight and are often the first point of contact when PSP enters a community. We are continually inspired by health departments' innovations and commitment to improving health of the residents they serve.

The Department of Population Science and Policy is working with Douglas County Health Department to learn how ideas about nutrition are passed down through generations. We are also partnering with the Jackson County Health Department , Egyptian Public and Mental Health Department (serving Saline, White and Gallatin counties) and the Southern 7 Health Department (serving Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union counties) to learn more about the intersection of opioid abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.
Rural Health Summit
Finally, the Department of Population Science and Policy partnered with the Illinois Department of Public Health , University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health , Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the SIU School of Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development to hold the 2018 Illinois Rural Health Summit. This two-day event was designed to facilitate conversation and gather information to begin drafting a blueprint to improve the health of residents in rural Illinois. In October 2018, Rural Health Summit organizers released a six page document outlining some of the most significant health challenges faced by rural residents. Rural Health Summit partners are now working to create policy recommendations to improve the health of residents in rural Illinois. The Rural Health Summit was made possible through a generous grant from Memorial Medical Center Foundation .
Innovative Funders
The Department of Population Science and Policy works primarily in rural, underserved areas. Many of these communities face great need but lack financial resources to create sustainable interventions. PSP is continually working to identify funding sources to close that gap.

In 2018, the Department was awarded a new grant from Lumpkin Family Foundation to better understand how nutrition views are passed down through generations in Douglas County. We look forward to reporting our findings later this year.

The Department also received a competitive grant from Telligen Community Initiative . This grant will fund a project to understand how telemedicine can improve care for rural patients who are concerned they have been exposed to HIV.

Existing grants continue to fund the Department's opioid-based research in the Illinois Delta Region. In this project, PSP is working to understand why the southernmost portion of Illinois is disproportionately affected by the opioid epidemic and to learn more about the connection between opioid users and individuals with sexually transmitted diseases.

In 2019 we look forward to connecting with additional grantmakers, philanthropists and the corporate community to spread awareness of our work and to create capacity to improve health in more communities in Illinois.
Research Assistant Professor
Assistant Instructor
The Department of Population Science and Policy is extremely proud to introduce its inaugural Advisory Board . PSP has enlisted a group of 13 thought leaders and experts from healthcare, public policy, research, technology, education and other disciplines to help guide our mission to improve health for residents in central and southern Illinois.

We look forward to convening advisory board members in Springfield in March 2019 to discuss the future of our Department.
The Department of Population Science and Policy is looking for talented, dedicated individuals to join our interdisciplinary team and assist with meeting our mission of understanding and advancing the health, development and wellness of residents in central and southern Illinois.

PhDs and MDs with backgrounds in epidemiology, biostatistics, health services, children and community health (or related fields) are encouraged to apply. We’re also seeking research and community support staff. View our vacancies at www.siumed.edu/jobs or contact Heather Whetsell for more information.
The Department of Population Science and Policy is proud to present a poster about the Illinois Rural Health Summit at the National Health Policy Conference in Washington D.C. this month.
Department Chair Dr. Sameer Vohra will present a session focused on health equity for rural residents at the American Hospital Association Rural Health Care Leadership Conference on Feb. 4 in Phoenix.
Connect With Us
Population Science & Policy
201 E. Madison Street
Springfield, IL 62702
(217) 545-7939