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March 30, 2000

University, RAND Corp. set up health care research institute

The University and the RAND Corp. have formed a partnership to establish a joint health care research institute in Pittsburgh. The RAND/University of Pittsburgh Health Research Institute will focus on implementing and evaluating health care interventions in real world environments, linking clinical innovations with health care policy to create and sustain improvements in health care delivery in communities across the country.

Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said that the new institute will provide benefits to the community while enhancing the region's strong reputation in the health sciences.

"The institute will bring together experts at the national forefront of health care from RAND and the University of Pittsburgh to address the country's most pressing health care issues as they are manifested in western Pennsylvania. In this way, the institute's research agenda will embody national concerns while simultaneously reflecting the needs and resources of the Pittsburgh community," he said.

Nordenberg added that western Pennsylvania residents will benefit directly from the institute's work.

"Pittsburgh and the surrounding communities will serve as a real world laboratory for examining and refining the delivery of health services in the context of complex social, economic and organizational systems. All groundbreaking innovations will be implemented first in Pittsburgh and the surrounding communities, thus ensuring that our region remains in the forefront of progress in clinical research, health policy and the delivery of health care services," he said.

Potential areas of research at the institute could include broad national issues, such as equity and disparities in health care utilization and outcomes; health care issues relevant to specific groups, such as women's health, low-birth-weight infants, substance abuse treatment and geriatric/aging issues; and issues related to the design and use of health care information systems, including opportunities for software development to support medical record assessment.

Arthur S. Levine, Pitt senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, pointed out that RAND and the University of Pittsburgh are "uniquely qualified" to undertake the institute's research program because they have complementary strengths.

"RAND has worked extensively on the scientific basis for improving health care service delivery, system performance, organizational effectiveness and implementing clinical improvements in operating health care delivery systems. Pitt brings key strengths in the areas of heath services research, clinical research, basic science research, mental health services, systems analysis and information technology, along with an institutional culture that promotes research efforts that cross the boundaries of traditional disciplines," Levine said.

Harold A. Pincus, professor and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Pitt, will be the director of the institute. Prior to joining Pitt in February, Pincus served for 14 years as deputy medical director and director of the Office of Research for the American Psychiatric Association.

Both RAND and Pitt have invested seed money to establish the new institute. The majority of the ongoing funding for the institute's research efforts is expected to come from national foundations and the federal government, but local support also will be sought to help disseminate innovations to the region as a whole.

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