May 22, 2019

Injuries and violence disproportionately affect persons of color, uninsured individuals, those with limited English-language proficiency or those who live in rural areas. Megan Moore, the School’s Sidney Miller Endowed Associate Professor, wants to improve those odds.  

Moore, who focuses on health equity and improving health outcomes after traumatic physical injury, recently started a two-year project supported by a $428,000 grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She is one of a handful of social workers nationwide who focus on this field.

Existing state-level trauma registries currently collect data on injuries, injury care and patient characteristics. Much of this information is relayed to the National Trauma Databank as well as the Trauma Quality Improvement Program of the American College of Surgeons. 

But there are limitations to the data being collected, said Moore. Information on primary language spoken, income level, longer-term post-discharge data and a handful of other health-equity variables are not currently being captured.

With the federal grant, Moore, co-principal investigator Ali Rowhani-Rahbar and their team will develop and test a culturally sensitive data instrument that will collect this additional information. The data can then be used to help inform customized prevention and post-injury interventions. “Customized treatment will result in better outcomes overall,” said Moore.

The grant grew out of a 2017 symposium on injury and health equity across the lifespan, sponsored by the School of Social Work, Institute of Translational Health Sciences, Harborview Injury Prevention Center, Harborview Medical Center and the UW School of Medicine. 

“At a break-out session, our group highlighted that we needed better data if we wanted to understand health disparities,” said Moore. “We identified 10 health-equity variables not currently being collected; four of them will be covered by this new grant.”

For example, although statistics on race are collected, the data are not always specific or completely accurate. “The data collection process can be more precise, to allow patients to identify multiple races and clearly delineate racial subgroups or regions if they like,” said Moore.

English-language proficiency is another untracked variable, yet patients with limited English proficiency are often more at risk after being discharged from the hospital. Moore’s previous work showed there are significant barriers to accessing important rehabilitation services for patients with limited English proficiency. 

In addition to improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations, Moore’s research may also result in significant savings. Each year, nearly 30 million people are treated in our nation’s hospital emergency rooms. About 2.5 million are hospitalized. This represents a loss of $671 billion a year when total lifetime medical and work-loss costs associated with these injuries are factored in.

Moore received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. She became intrigued with health equity in a healthcare setting when she worked in the trauma center of San Francisco General Hospital and also saw outpatients suffering from traumatic brain injury. 

“Individuals don’t just come into the ER with a traumatic injury and that’s all,” she said. “They come in within the larger context of their social environments. By understanding these intersections and critical intervention points, we can better serve the patient.”

In addition to her work at the UW School of Social Work, Moore is also a core faculty member at Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. Harborview Medical Center will be the partnering institution on this grant.