The new University of Missouri System Health Care Finder online tool is one strand of a statewide Show Me Health and Well-Being initiative that aims to increase Missourians’ access to health care and boost the state’s health care outcomes.
The easy-to-use tool has mapped 205 UM System health care resources across the state — from a pediatric endocrinology clinic in Kirksville to Tele-Behavioral Health Services in Marble Hill. Using key words, zip codes and geographic areas, Missourians can locate these UM System health care assets and services near them.
More important, the Health Care Finder will help the newly convened UM System Health Engagement Task Force identify gaps in care and areas of need in local communities.
“This exciting new effort helps support comprehensive System initiatives such as NextGen Precision Health and Show Me Health and Well-Being.” said Marshall Stewart, UM System chief engagement officer and MU vice chancellor for extension and engagement. “It will help us effectively leverage local partnerships to expand delivery of high-end care in under-served areas.”
Following a comprehensive All Things Missouri statewide needs assessment three years ago, the UM System and its four universities are committed to connecting resources, research and projects to improve Missourians’ lives in areas of greatest challenge related to the economy, education and health.
Missourians — especially in rural areas — face acute health care challenges. Many people travel more than an hour to reach health care providers for routine care and emergency services. An aging and financially disadvantaged population struggles with high rates of obesity, smoking, heart disease, stroke, mental health concerns, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and more. Missouri is 37th out of 50 states in prevention and treatment and 33rd in health care access and affordability.
The UM System Health Engagement Task Force and the Show Me Health and Well-Being initiative are working with MU Extension, local communities and partners to help identify and solve health care access and preventative care and education challenges.
“The Health Care Finder is just one tangible example of the System’s commitment, working with communities and partners across the state, to tailor solutions to health care, economic opportunity and educational needs and promote individual and community well-being,” said Alison Copeland, UM System deputy chief engagement officer.
Broader efforts also are underway such as a new community health program area within MU Extension that will help strengthen collaboration across medical, nursing and health professions schools and services and link the NextGen Precision Health Initiative with rural health needs.
“The mapping of UM System health care assets will serve as a tool to help us work with local communities to provide solutions to health care access challenges,” said Kathleen Quinn, senior program director for health and safety with MU Extension and MU School of Medicine associate dean for rural health. “By knowing our own assets we can potentially scale services to meet health care needs in areas of the state that are lacking.”
This benefit has already been demonstrated through a recent inventory of community-based care for mental health provided by UM System universities, Copeland said: “We’ve found that the three universities that work in this space want to unite to do more together and increase outreach across the state. We wouldn’t be a position to move forward in this way without the mapping and ultimately the Health Care Finder.”
The Health Care Finder is a work in progress. “Farther down the road, we hope to add greater context with overlapping map layers showing local social and economic data, as well as information about other community-based health and social services, such as county health departments and mental health counselors,” said Chris Fulcher, director of the MU Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES).
The tool is on the UM System’s Engagement Portal, a comprehensive online inventory of each university’s footprint and impact serving Missourians beyond the campus.
“This systemwide effort harnesses our expertise, resources, research and reach — the first step in bringing together the right partners to provide immediate results and solutions and improve long-term health outcomes across Missouri,” Stewart said.