The Center for Health Systems Research, Policy and Practice

Our vision is to facilitate research and training that are personally satisfying, useful to people within and beyond Texas, and sustainable.

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About the Center for Health Systems Research, Policy and Practice

We are pursuing our vision by advancing the evidence base for improving population health in a cost-effective manner.

Our center includes three research centers and one institute: the Center for Healthcare Data, the Center for Health Services Research, the G.M. Fleming Center for Healthcare Management, and the Institute for Health Policy. We work together to make progress on four key goals:

  1. To develop a statewide, multi-payer administrative data system and a comprehensive sample survey program to support health surveillance, needs assessment and healthcare performance measurement.
  2. To evaluate the cost and outcomes of health policies and of services, including promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
  3. To evaluate relevant federal, state and local health issues; formulate strategies for translating research into practice, and provide technical assistance to improve health policy.
  4. To advance the education and training of health professionals through certificate programs for community health workers, clinicians, and other health care leaders.

As part of our commitment to informing population health improvement, faculty associated with the Center for Health Systems are available to speak topics ranging from community-based participatory research to health system reform.

Current projects

Our staff work on a number of different projects which inform action around critical health issues. 

Optimizing age-based anal cancer screening among people living with HIV using decision-analytic modeling

Persons living with HIV (PLWH) are over 50-fold high risk for anal cancer than the general population, yet no evidence-based national anal cancer screening guidelines exist.  This study uses data-driven mathematical modeling integrating evidence from two large clinical trials and several large databases to develop anal cancer screening algorithms for PLWH. The innovative approach will determine cost-effective anal cancer screening policies as well as risk-stratified personalized algorithms with the goal to decrease the rapidly rising anal cancer burden.

Project staff:

Ashish Deshmukh, PhD
David Lairson, PhD
Kalyani Sonawane, PhD

Addressing social needs of high-risk patients through screening and navigation to community social service organizations

The environments in which people live profoundly influence health outcomes. Harris County is one of the largest counties in the United States, among the most diverse and underserved populations in the country. Health-related social needs include rapidly increasing housing costs, frequent food insecurity, high rates of domestic violence, and limited public transportation. In this project, UT School of Public Health researchers are partnering with Harris Health System, Memorial Hermann Health System and UT Physicians to discover how the screening of health-related social needs, referral and navigation of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries affect the use of community services, healthcare costs, utilization and health outcomes.

Project staff:

Linda Highfield, PhD
Cecilia Ganduglia Cazaban, PhD
Robert Morgan, PhD

North American Urban Research Hub

This research hub fosters research and knowledge exchange among North American cities in the Cities Changing Diabetes initiative sponsored by the global health care company Novo Nordisk. Current participants include Houston, Mexico City, and Vancouver. Innovation within the Houston project has included evaluation training for faith-based wellness leaders that draws on appreciating chronic disease as a shared challenge across income levels and religious communities. Findings will be used to demonstrate how action-oriented research can support local stakeholder-driven health initiatives in other urban areas throughout and beyond North America. 

Project staff:

Stephen Linder, PhD
Jessica Tullar, PhD
Dritana Marko, PhD
Ellen Breckenridge, JD, PhD
Rebecca Wells, PhD

Study of serious and persistent mental illness in Medicaid descriptive analysis and policy options for Texas

Medicaid expenditures account for about a third of the annual Texas budget, so the effectiveness and efficiency of this program are major health policy objectives for the state. People with serious mental illness have, on average, a much shorter life expectancy, and this has been attributed to the impact of poorly managed chronic medical illness. With support from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, we are analyzing health care utilization and cost for Medicaid enrollees with serious mental illness to evaluate policy influences on costs and utilization. We have found that the greater Medicaid costs for people with serious mental illness are mostly attributable to chronic medical rather than behavioral health care. Findings such as these support integrating care in Texas Medicaid.

Project staff:

Paul Rowan, PhD
Robert Morgan, PhD
Cecilia Ganduglia Cazaban, PhD
Trudy Krause, PhD

Alamo Area Council Information System

Community Information Now (CI:Now) turns public and private data into understandable information that local governments, nonprofits, and others use to improve community conditions. Housed in and staffed via a decade-long partnership with the UTHealth School of Public Health in San Antonio, CI:Now is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit local data intermediary with a vision of improved lives and decreased disparities through democratized data. We make a wealth of local data available through free online tools, plus training and one-on-one technical assistance help our partners understand and use that data effectively. CI:Now is the local partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP), primarily serving Bexar (San Antonio) and surrounding counties in south-central Texas. CI:Now has earned a local and national reputation for trustworthy and neutral data, collaboration and innovation in fostering the use of data to decrease disparities, increase equity, and help neighborhoods and communities thrive.

Project staff:

Laura McKieran, PhD

Request a speaker

Our faculty are experts in a variety of fields. They are available to speak to community groups on the following subjects. 

Subject matter

Carol Galeener

Behavioral Economics

Cecilia Ganduglia Cazaban


Claims / Administrative / Clinical

Health Care Utilization

Outcomes Research

Trudy Krause


Behavioral Health

Claims / Administrative / Clinical


Health Care Utilization

Health Information Technology

Hospital / Health Plan Administration

Occupational Health

Outcomes Research

Physician Costs

Policy Evaluation

Qualitative Methods

US Healthcare Policy

David Lairson


Analysis of Healthcare Interventions


Economics of Cancer Prevention

Stephen Linder


1332 Waiver (ACA)

Climate Change

Cumulative Risk

Data for Communities

Diabetes Prevention

Environmental Issues


Health Disparities

Needs Assessment


Regulatory Process

Social Determinants of Health

The  Texas Medical Center

Suja S. Rajan


Behavioral Health and Behavioral Economics

Breast Cancer

Cancer Screening (especially mammography and pap smears)

Comparative Effectiveness



Economics Evaluation and Cost Analysis

Health Economics

Health Outcomes Research

Health Services Research

Healthcare Disparity – Racial and Gender Disparities

Impact of obesity on health risk, treatment utilization, and costs

Large database analysis – Claims data analysis

Managerial Economics (mostly with reference to healthcare management)

Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) data use for health services research

Regression analysis


Women’s Health

Pauline Rosenau


Policy Evaluation

International Policy

US Health Care Policy

Affordable Care Act

Medicaid / Safety Net


Private Insurance

Health System Reform

Paul Rowan


Integrated care

Mental illness

Postpartum Depression/Peripartum Mental Health

Catherine Troisi



Infectious diseases

Melissa Valerio


Health Literacy

Community Engagement

Community-Based Participatory Research

Research methods

Chronic Disease Management

Translational Research


Building Partnerships

Rebecca Wells

Network analyses to facilitate cooperative initiatives


    Leading data collection effort aimed at reducing teen pregnancy

    The data collection effort, expected to take six months, is the second part of a yearlong planning phase to address the issue of pregnancy prevention among children in foster care. Melissa Peskin, PhD, associate professor with UTHealth School of Public Health, will lead the effort.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - CLYC slider

    Dr. Markham works with community partner. Photo by Aaron Nieto.

    Conducting needs assessments and "meeting people where they are"

    UTHealth School of Public Health researchers work to bridge that gap between what intervention programs offer versus what's needed by creating programs based on input from the individuals who have lived the experiences. 

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - Meeting People Where They Are

    Vanessa Schick, PhD; and J. Michael Wilkerson, PhD, MPH

    Understanding how one dose of the HPV vaccine may prevent infection

    A new study revealed that one dose of the HPV vaccine may prevent infection from the potential cancer-causing virus, according to research published in JAMA Network Open by UTHealth School of Public Health researchers.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - HPV dosage slider

    Study authors Ashish Deshmukh, PhD, MPH; and Kalyani Sonawane, PhD. Photo by Maricruz Kwon.

    Preventing and caring for HIV in homeless youth

     Alexis Sims, a doctoral student in health promotion and behavioral sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, has been awarded a $100,000 supplemental research grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate HIV prevention and care in homeless youth.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - NIH funding for HIV

    Alexis Sims, MPH

    Meeting the public health education needs of the Permian Basin community

    UTHealth School of Public Health and the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) College of Business have partnered to provide graduate students with the opportunity to earn a Graduate Certificate in Public Health while simultaneously earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) beginning Spring 2020.

    READ MOREUTPB Partnership CertificateSPH - Our Impact - UTPB Partnership Certificate

    UTHealth School of Public Health Dean Eric Boerwinkle, PhD, UTPB President Dr. Sandra Woodley

    Alumnus appointed to Texas Radiation Advisory Board

     Dr. William “Will” Pate, was appointed to the Texas Radiation Advisory Board (TRAB) and will remain in this position until the end of his term on April 16, 2023. Dr. Pate is one of 10 Texas professionals appointed to this board.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - Pate

    William Pate

    Fighting back against the vaping epidemic among youth

    As e-cigarette use by young people reaches epidemic proportions, researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) have received a $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct the first-ever assessment on the long-term results of a nationwide nicotine vaping prevention program for youth called CATCH My Breath.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - vaping epidemic

    Steven H. Kelder, PhD, MPH

    Carol Huber appointed to the Value Based Payment and Quality Improvement Advisory Committee for Texas

    Huber will serve as a member representing regional healthcare partnerships.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact 2020 - Carol Huber appointed to Value Based Payment and Quality Improvement Advisory Committee for Texas

    Carol Huber