Volume 2.1 | March 1, 2018
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's Office of Population Science and Policy (OPSP) is excited to bring you the fifth issue of The Pioneer Pulse, a monthly supplement to our larger quarterly newsletter, The Pioneer . The Pioneer Pulse is filled with news and updates on population science and policy issues affecting our region, state and country.  This month’s issue focuses on health policy and tax bill changes, dementia care and upcoming events.
OPSP in the News
  • OPSP is featured prominently in the Winter 2018 edition of Aspects Magazine, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s quarterly publication. The issue includes in-depth articles about the Office’s work and mission as well as a profile of OPSP Executive Director Sameer Vohra, MD, JD, MA, FAAP.

  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) highlights partnerships with University of Illinois Springfield and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine to conduct research on asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Sangamon County.

  • Carolyn Pointer, JD, OPSP Policy Director, was published in the Beyond Flexner Alliance blog. Professor Pointer emphasizes SIU’s Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) and how it “creates an inter-professional team to address legal issues impeding patient and population health.”

For more news and updates, follow us on our social media pages via Facebook , Twitter and LinkedIn.
Noteworthy News
  • The changing landscape of health policy in the early months of 2018 has many worried about protecting our most vulnerable. The recent shift to allow states to include a work requirement for Medicaid coverage is one change in particular that could increase health disparities. Health disparities widen when working a minimum wage job excludes one from Medicaid eligibility, yet doesn't generate enough income to afford other insurance plans.

  • The Washington Post explored a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics that found that rural counties had higher infant mortality rates than large urban counties. The article further explains “past research has shown that poverty, smoking and other maternal health behaviors during pregnancy and less access to care all can impact infant mortality.”

  • Rural Health Information Hub shared stories this month on young leaders in rural healthcare. These new innovators may be the changemakers to improve rural health and wellness.
Health Insurance Policy
A recent tax bill eliminated the individual mandate penalty for not having health insurance. This has some large and important consequences that affect all populations. The Congressional Budget Office calculated that the repeal would save the government $318 billion over ten years, with that savings coming almost exclusively from lost health care coverage . The report also estimates that by 2027, 13 million people will have lost health insurance – 5 million from the individual market, 5 million from Medicaid, and 3 million from employer covered individuals.

As rural areas already struggle with health insurance coverage, this change will bring no relief as 454 counties have only a single option for marketplace coverage. These areas will face disproportionately high premiums, driving those who cannot afford more expensive insurance to go without. This puts rural and underserved populations at risk for both worse health outcomes and a loss of protections from social determinants of health. Health insurance has been associated with improved financial well-being and decreased mortality . This change has the potential to create barriers to health and well-being for populations that already experience disparities in health.
The Aging Population
Nearly 73 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964. As these “baby boomers” age, they contribute to an accompanying rise in the number of people living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia related diseases. The aging population, combined with the urban migration of younger adults, means the average age of people living in rural areas is increasing. As a result, the burden of care often falls upon the family members to act as informal caregivers. States have begun to fund caregiver assistance programs that utilize a person-centered approach in response to this growing health concern .

Person-centered care   is an approach to health care that focuses on tailoring a delivery system personalized to each individual’s needs and personality. Programs like Savvy Caregiver and Maximizing Independence (MIND) at Home focus on the relationship between dementia patient and caregive r. These programs often provide individual care planning for dementia patients and care education and behavior management training for caregivers and may present a solution to this escalating health care issue, especially in rural and underserved populations.
Bioethicist in Residence
Each year a leading bioethicist scholar visits the School of Law and School of Medicine at Southern Illinois University to present a lecture for medical students and the public. This year’s guest lecturer is Dr. Alice Dreger, medical historian, author and award-winning scholar. 

Dr. Dreger will present “ Who Should Count as a Woman on the Playing Field? The Question of Intersex and Trans in Sports, ” which explores gender and sex in sports while addressing developmental biology, the nature of sport (including the value of fairness) and social justice concerns.

This event is open to the public and will be held on March 21, 2018, at SIU School of Law in Carbondale, Illinois.
Upcoming Events
  • OPSP is excited to be presenting at the Association for Community Health Improvement’s 2018 National Conference held March 14-16 in Atlanta. Executive Director Sameer Vohra and Administrative Director Heather Westrick will present poster sessions titled “Building Healthy Illinois Rural Communities – Regional Approaches to Population Health” and “Designing a Parent-Engaged, Developmentally-Oriented Rural Hospital.” These sessions will showcase OPSP’s efforts to address rural health disparities and building community coalitions.

  • Dr. Wiley Jenkins will be serving as a panelist at the public presentation of “The Heroin Project” on March 6, 2018, at the Eastern Illinois Area Special Education Cooperative in Charleston, Illinois.
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 .
Connect With Us

Office of Population Science & Policy
201 E. Madison Street
Springfield, IL 62702
(217) 545-7939