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Duke Health Receives Support from IBM to Advance Community Wellness Program

Published August 25, 2016 | Updated September 12, 2016

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DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke Health was named among the first recipients of the IBM Health Corps award, and will be receiving expertise from some of IBM’s top employees to build a communications infrastructure that will help connect members of Durham community health partnerships.

Duke was one of five institutions worldwide selected as part of IBM’s new Health Corps program, which aims to address disparities in health. The company’s pro bono initiative will provide an estimated $2.5 million in expertise to Duke and the other recipients with assistance setting up data, analytics and cognitive and cloud computing for public health projects worldwide.

The company’s work with Duke will be through its Center for Community and Population Health Improvement, which is a member of the Healthy Durham partnership that was formed to eliminate health disparities in the Durham community.

“Deepening our understanding of health disparities, and the factors that drive them, is a central objective of the Duke Center for Community and Population Health Improvement,” said Eugene Washington, M.D., chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of Duke University Health System. 

“We are eager to work with IBM’s Health Corps on this project,” Washington said. “Mapping current population health interventions will ultimately allow us to identify gaps, realize efficiencies and better define measured steps that relevant sectors and stakeholders can take to improve population health.”

IBM’s team will spend three weeks at the Duke center, helping establish a framework for a digital platform that will enable Healthy Durham partners to effectively collaborate to measure and improve health equity. A communications framework is needed so that ideas, data and programs can be coordinated across the disparate membership of Healthy Durham, which not only includes Duke, but city and county agencies, churches and non-profits.

“I commend Duke Health for receiving the IBM Health Corps project award,” said William V. "Bill" Bell, mayor of the City of Durham. “Support from IBM will enhance the work being done by multiple groups in the city that are working to address the social determinants of health. The city is proud to partner with Duke Health, county government, IBM and other groups to help connect our residents to appropriate services through this project.”

L. Ebony Boulware, M.D., director of the Center for Community and Population Health Improvement at Duke, said IBM’s support will be integral to linking various Healthy Durham partners so that progress can be measured, gaps in services can be identified, and resources can be well allocated.

Boulware said the partners in Healthy Durham have identified challenges in the community that different groups are tackling with a variety of programs, including HIV/AIDS, mental health and addiction, and chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Better internal communications will eliminate overlap in programs and services and ultimately enhance health.

“With help from IBM, we hope to develop a platform that will enable all the partners in Healthy Durham to share information and improve the health of Durham,” Boulware said. “It’s so exciting to work with IBM, which is a world leader in health informatics, to help us advance our work to improve the lives of people in Durham.”

In addition to Duke, IBM selected inaugural assistance projects that:
•    increase the availability of chemotherapy medicines in sub-Saharan Africa;
•    better track and control Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases in Panama; 
•    curb the surge of Dengue fever in Taiwan; 
•    increase access to diagnostic radiology in low- and middle-income countries.

"Globally, the public health community is on the brink of eliminating some of the most pressing health disparities of our day,” said Jen Crozier, IBM vice president of Global Citizenship Initiatives. “We’ve heard from our partners that access to data, analytics, and cognitive computing is key to closing the gap. By contributing our IBM experts and technology to partner with these five visionary organizations, we believe that together we can transform health in our communities and across the world."

"IBM is delighted that Duke Health and the Duke Center for Community & Population Health Improvement was one of five recipients of IBM's inaugural Health Corps grant,” said Fran O'Sullivan, IBM N.C. senior state executive. “Partnering with Duke Health, IBM will use its top talent and technology to improve the health outcomes of citizens in North Carolina.” 

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