Shipman leading new Institute for Population Health
More and more money is being invested into the U.S. healthcare system but results commensurate with that investment aren’t coming. Enter Creighton’s Institute for Population Health and its executive director, Scott Shipman, MD, MPH. A pediatrician by training, Shipman was named the inaugural holder of the CyncHealth Endowed Chair for Population Health at Creighton in 2022, and he is now busy with the launch of the Institute for Population Health. Creighton magazine asked Shipman about establishing the institute and the opportunity for Creighton to be a leader in the field of population health.
For those who are not familiar with it, how do you describe population health?
Population health takes the traditional focus on individual, personal health and reframes it in a collective, community-based perspective. We focus on disparities in health within the population first through focusing on the healthcare system and efforts to improve access to high-value care, and second, by looking at community-based population health initiatives.
You mention “high-value care.” Can you explain what that means?
High-value care basically means providing services with a focus on increasing quality and controlling costs.
Healthcare in the U.S. is too expensive, and it has too many gaps in quality, caring and effective communication. Life expectancy in the U.S. is declining in real terms. Disparities in health are growing. Costs keep rising. Meanwhile, some with vested interests resist reform. Physicians and nurses are struggling with the burden, and often they are as frustrated in the system as their patients. The current state of things is not sustainable. Our work will focus on better and higher-value methods and models of delivering care, with an emphasis on driving change and scaling it across the healthcare system.
You are trained as a pediatrician. What led you into the field of population health?
It is a bit of a circuitous route. Pediatrics was the perfect field for me. A pediatrician provides care to the child, sure, but does so in the context of the family and the community. A child’s health and well-being are completely linked to the health and well-being of the family as well as the community resources that support ongoing growth and development.
In time, I found that I could be more effective in improving health of children, families and communities if I focused my expertise on studying and improving health policy and care at a system level.
The move to population health is a natural next step. If our focus is only on the healthcare system, we risk ignoring the policies and social systems that truly have the most impact on health in our communities. Engaging the health system and the community together opens new pathways to better health.
The IPH will be focused specifically on health inequities. What are some of the areas on which you will be focusing?
Health inequities are getting worse in our country. Barriers to access to healthcare, unsafe neighborhoods, economic instability and associated housing and food insecurity, lack of transportation and the digital divide are all factors that impact these trends. The IPH will work to elevate awareness of these problems, to produce evidence to support the best possible policies to address them and to work with existing community-based organizations to help in their efforts to overcome these disparities in health. There are also inequities in access to healthcare, trust in the healthcare system and quality and outcomes of care. There is a need to prioritize awareness and understanding of these healthcare disparities and to put in place new and sustained efforts to overcome them.
What makes this a unique opportunity for Creighton?
Creighton has a core mission that focuses on service and justice. Creighton faculty from across all schools and colleges have a history of impressive work and commitment to the community. Most students at Creighton bring a passion for service and a sense of altruism to campus. Creighton produces a disproportionate number of healthcare professionals and other service-minded leaders. Our neighbors in north and south Omaha are among the most diverse in the state. Our affiliations with CHI Health, Dignity Health, CommonSpirit Health and Valleywise in the Midwest and Southwest regions of the U.S. create opportunities to test, study and scale clinical innovations that can have tremendous impact. Put these factors together, and it presents an amazing opportunity for Creighton to excel.