Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Physician's Proposal Awarded Prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant

May 27, 2008

Petersen’s proposal only 1 of 10 selected in United States.

HOUSTON - Laura Petersen, M.D., M.P.H, principal investigator of the Houston VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Center of Excellence, was recently notified that her proposal, “Does Pay-for-Performance Improve the Quality of Hypertension Care for Black Patients? A Randomized Controlled Trial,” received $275,000 in funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) program, Finding Answers:  Disparities Research for Change. Of the 134 brief proposals submitted to the program, RWJF only awards grants to ten after a comprehensive site visit. 

“These grantees will work with the health care community to identify innovative approaches to reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care,” said Marshall H. Chin, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, Department of Medicine and the Center for Health and the Social Sciences, as well as the director of the Finding Answers program. “They will develop interventions that can be replicated and sustained in communities throughout the United States.”

Many health care organizations are implementing “pay-for-performance” programs. However, there is little evidence supporting the effectiveness of these programs in improving the quality of health care, and little is known about whether their effectiveness varies by racial or ethnic group. Petersen’s project evaluates whether pay-for-performance improves the overall level of hypertension care in black patients. The project will be performed as a nested study within her on-going randomized controlled trial on pay-for-performance funded by the VA and the National Institutes for Health. Petersen’s grant colleagues include LeChauncy Woodard, Ph.D., co-investigator; Mark Kuebeler, programmer; and Kate Simpson, project coordinator. The project is funded for two years starting May 1, 2008.

The results of Petersen’s research will help Finding Answers and RWJF understand what works, or does not work, to improve health care for minority patients. The information Petersen and the other grantees provide to Finding Answers will include guidance for implementing tested interventions, including potential obstacles and solutions, start-up and maintenance costs for the intervention, and staff training needs. Finding Answers will evaluate the results and related information and then inform health care stakeholders—doctors, nurses, hospitals and health plans—about promising interventions that demonstrate potential to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

The majority of the proposals submitted to Finding Answers/RWJF included interventions involving health care policy, health care organizations, providers, patients and direct community linkages to the health care system. All were evaluated and selected based on the following factors: strength of the intervention, demographics of the institution, institutional commitment to addressing disparities in health care and improving quality of care overall, data collection capacity, and the scientific quality of the proposed research project.

Research by the VA is a national asset benefiting veteran patients and the entire nation by moving medical science forward. VA investigators played key roles in developing devices and techniques that revolutionized health care such as the cardiac pacemaker, the CAT scan, and liver and kidney transplants. Today, VA is a leader in many areas of research, including AIDS, mental health, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases, and spinal cord injury.

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