Emory Gets Federal Award
to Study Effects of Terrorism on Health Care System
ATLANTA -- Emory University's Center on Health Outcomes and Quality
has been funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
for $270,000 to study the effects of the 9-11 terrorism and anthrax
attacks of 2001 on the health care system. The findings will be used
to help the health care community understand, anticipate and better
prepare for the impact of possible future terrorism.
A team from the Emory Center
on Health Outcomes and Quality and the Center for Public Health Preparedness
and Research, both in the Rollins School of Public Health, will study
the effects of stress-aggravated or stress-related diseases on health
care demands and costs.
"Terrorism brought about
fear and disruption of our daily lives that left a psychological aftershock,"
says co-principal investigator Diane Green, PhD, MPH, Research Assistant
Professor, Emory Center on Health Outcomes and Quality. "Anxiety disorders,
post-traumatic stress disorder and depression may be the tip of the
iceberg for health effects and demands on health systems."
Ruth Berkelman, MD, Rollins
Professor and Director, Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research
and co-principal investigator of the study, adds that, "Certain types
of health care utilization, especially of mental health services, have
probably increased since last fall, and the magnitude of the effect
may depend on how close individuals were to the World Trade Center bombings
and to the anthrax victims. We expect to see fewer effects further from
New York and the East Coast, but some effects on mental health and other
services may be nationwide.
"Immediately following a
major terrorism event like 9/11," Dr. Berkelman says, "it is unclear
whether people will increase or decrease visits such as those for routine
care, minor illnesses or elective medical procedures."
Researchers will use health
care utilization data collected from certain Aetna health plans because
of Aetna’s diverse membership it has members in 47 states and offers
both HMO and PPO-based products. Using the ample statistical data, researchers
will be able to examine multiple health outcomes and stratify analyses
by location, type of product, and demographics. To determine costs to
the healthcare system, utilization patterns will be studied in inpatient,
outpatient and emergency department settings.
The study population will
be selected using Aetna members in the areas directly affected by the
terrorist events of September October 2001(Washington, D.C., parts
of New York, New Jersey and Florida) and a sample of the member population
in several other areas based on the nine standard divisions defined
by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Drs. Green and Berkelman
say that although stress has been recognized as a risk factor for numerous
illnesses, less is known about the clinical effects of terrorism on
health care utilization for both mental health disorders such as depression
and anxiety disorders as well as physical conditions such as cardiovascular
disease and asthma.
"This study is a contribution
to national preparedness," says Dr. Berkelman. "By understanding the
impact of specific terror-related events, the health care community
is better prepared to anticipate both the short- and long-term impact
of future events."
November 2001, the USQA Center for Health Care Research TM, a division
of U.S. Quality Algorithms, Inc., the health informatics subsidiary
of Aetna Inc., moved to Emory where it became the cornerstone of the
Emory Center on Health Outcomes and Quality.
The Emory Center
on Health Outcomes and Quality, a multi-school, multi-disciplinary group
within The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, was created to
conduct outcomes-based research that includes assessing and improving
methods for measuring quality of care and designing interventions to
improve health outcomes. It works with consumers, physicians and insurers
to evaluate and implement new approaches for improving quality of care.
The Emory Center
for Health Outcomes and Quality is part of the AHRQ-supported Integrated
Delivery System Research Network, a model of field-based research that
links many of the nation's top investigators with some of its largest
health systems for accelerated research on cutting-edge issues. The
mission of AHRQ, the federal government's lead health services research
agency, includes supporting research to improve the quality and effectiveness
of health care, and to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety.