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Advancing the science of family medicine

The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health faculty includes experts in patient centered outcomes, mixed methods, qualitative, and community based participatory research methodologies.

The department has ongoing research in areas of cancer screening and prevention, behavioral health, maternal child health, social determinants of health, chronic disease, Asian and cultural medicine, trauma informed care, intimate partner violence, as well as educational research to improve the training of physicians. The department is also committed to conducting research in collaboration with the communities it serves, particularly those that suffer from disparities of health, related to low income and race/ethnic minority status.

COVID-19 Mobile Response Unit 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, increased isolation has heightened the need for additional support for at-risk communities that are facing unintentional deaths from drug overdoses. As a part of a partnership among University of Pennsylvania, Prevention Point: Philadelphia, and the city’s Department of Health, primary-care residents are being trained in ways to reduce harm via innovative mobile units at overdose hotspots in Philadelphia.

The DFMCH's Peter Cronholm CAREs grant goes toward producing educational materials related to reducing harm, for naloxone (which counters the effects of an opioid overdose) and for teaching equipment.

National Center for Integrated Behavioral Health

The National Center for Integrated Behavioral Health, funded through the Health Services and Research Administration (HRSA), is an innovation hub that tests, develops, and disseminates best practices to improve the quality, accessibility, and effectiveness of treatment for behavioral health and substance use disorders in primary care.

Learn more at ncibh.org

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research

About half of adults in the top 5% of healthcare spending are considered medically and socially complex and have unique needs requiring researchers and practitioners to seek ways to improve targeted healthcare delivery for this at-risk population.The PCORI Engagement Award [3988‐TTUP] was a two-year process that brought together multiple stakeholders involved in the care of medically and social complex patients, including patients, providers, community‐based organizations (CBO), health‐system leaders, and policy makers.

The objective of engagement work was to define a research agenda addressing the needs of medically and socially complex patients. We accomplished this through supporting cross-stakeholder communication and using data collection methods including nominal group technique (NGT), individual interviews, and stakeholder meetings to build an improved understanding of the varying perspectives of key stakeholders.The engagement process defined an agreed upon set of health-related conditions felt to be of high priority to multiple stakeholders involved in the care of medically and socially complex patients. The disparities identified in the mediation of barriers and the opportunities for change provide important guidance towards next steps in developing interventions that effectively identify and provide integrated and augmented pathways of care for medically and socially complex patients.

Locally Rooted - Food Insecurity Initiative

The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health has partnered with Hungry Harvest’s Harvest Rx program to deliver fresh produce to food insecure prenatal patients.

HarvestRX is a “prescription” for biweekly home deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables that helps encourage healthy eating, home cooking and a greater sense of independence. The Penn Medicine Locally Rooted program is free to prenatal patients through funding by the Penn CAREs grant.

The goal of this program is to assist vulnerable West Philadelphia based prenatal patients with access to free and fresh produce. 

National Institutes of Health HEAL Initiative

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative (NIH HEAL Initiative) has awarded Penn Medicine five grants totaling more than $22 million to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid use disorder. 

The DFMCH’s Hillary R. Bogner, MD, MSCE, co-leads a team with David Mandell, ScD, Director of the Center for Mental Health, and Kyle Kampman, MD, Director of the Charles O’Brien Center for the Treatment of Addictions, a team that is receiving $11.2 million from the initiative to study the treatment of opioid use disorder and psychiatric disorders in the primary care setting, with a collaborative care model.

Learn more about the initiative

Healthy Library Initiative

The Healthy Library Initiative is a partnership between Penn and Philadelphia’s public library system, in which Penn advisors collaborate with librarians to integrate evidence-based public health programming in a library setting. The community health specialist pilot training addresses issues faced by children and families experiencing trauma, mental health and substance abuse, the health and social needs of immigrants, and homelessness. The training encourages library staff to recognize vulnerable patrons, communicate productively with them, and guide these patrons to appropriate community-based services.

Learn more at healthylibrary.org

Cancer Screening Outreach and Navigation

Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in our communities and disproportionally affects African Americans, but disparities can be eliminated by providing equitable access to colorectal cancer screening and treatment. We developed a program that makes screening convenient, accessible and affordable by providing immunochemical screening tests that can be done in the comfort of the home. This innovative program offers a feasible alternative to more invasive procedures, while reducing the frequency of unnecessary colonoscopies and burdensome screening costs.


Mixed Methods Research Lab (MMRL)

The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health engages the community in ongoing research using the Mixed Methods Research Lab, which provides expertise in novel research methods that are central to community-focused and patient-centered research as well as implementation science. Utilizing conceptual models that draw from the social sciences as well as the life sciences, the Lab uses a trans-disciplinary approach to address correlates of health that disproportionately affect vulnerable groups.

Learn more about the MMRL
researchers at computer