Researchers at the Case Western Reserve University Center for Health Care Research and Policy at MetroHealth received a four-year $1.95 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to create a free Health Risk Appraisal tool. A Health Risk Appraisal can be an important tool in determining what factors are under the control of the individual and can be impacted by social or medical interventions to reduce those deaths.

The researchers will work to create a free, technologically updated tool to share with primary care practices throughout the U.S.

A Health Risk Appraisal tool was first created and used in 1987 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Carter Center in their Health Risk Appraisal Update Project. The director of that project, Edwin B. Hutchins, updated the HRA in 1997 when he established The Healthier People Network, Inc. (HPN). Hutchins will be part of the research team involved in this re-engineering project, along with researchers from New York Medical College, CWRU and MetroHealth.

“The Healthier People Network version is the only free software tool available in the public domain right now, but it’s still in the old DOS format, so it’s cumbersome to use and is not feasible for wide use in a variety of primary care settings, some resource rich and other resource poor,” said Joseph J. Sudano Jr., PhD, assistant professor with the Center for Health Care Research and Policy and lead investigator. “We’ll re-engineer it into a stand-alone and web-based format so pretty much anyone can use it anywhere on the planet.”

The grant was awarded by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services AHRQ, whose mission is to improve the quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of health care for all Americans. AHRQ is particularly interested in whether or not HRAs are useful and effective in helping providers and patients achieve better health outcomes in primary care settings.

This four-year grant is the first of two phases. Phase one is the re-engineering of the software and pilot testing it with providers using their feedback to tailor it for use in primary care. The second phase will involve another grant employing randomized control trials in a wide variety of primary care setting to investigate its effectiveness.