Morehouse School of Medicine Receives $1.2 Million Grant from United Health Foundation and Optum to Help Build Healthier Communities in Atlanta

April 18, 2015
  • Grant will support Morehouse’s Patient Centered Medical Home and Neighborhood Project to improve health among Atlanta’s most vulnerable and underserved urban communities
  • Medical Home takes culturally relevant approach to coordinate care, helping patients manage chronic diseases and reduce emergency care visits, improving outcomes and reducing costs

Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) has been awarded $1.2 million in grant funding and in-kind support by United Health Foundation and Optum to help support its Patient Centered Medical Home and Neighborhood Project.

The Medical Home and Neighborhood Project provides an innovative primary-care delivery model and a series of community engagement programs to improve health in and around Atlanta’s East Point area, a largely African-American community with high rates of poverty and complex chronic diseases.

A patient-centered medical home better organizes care by centering care delivery with the primary care provider, and then using health information technology and improved communication to help coordinate the patients’ treatments among their other care providers and others in the health system, which can lead to higher quality and lower costs.  Experience shows this approach helps improve patients’ and health care providers’ experience with care.

The grant is part of United Health Foundation’s “Helping Build Healthier Communities” program, which provides critical resources to nonprofit, community-based organizations across the country to improve communities’ health and well-being. United Health Foundation previously provided a planning grant of $200,000 to Morehouse School of Medicine.  To continue the work begun with that grant, United Health Foundation is providing an additional grant of $400,000, and Optum is providing $600,000 in grant funds and in-kind support.

The grants will help MSM create a patient-centered medical home at its department of family medicine clinical site, the Comprehensive Family Healthcare Center at Buggy Works in East Point.  The project will coordinate and enhance care through MSM’s cultural-engagement approach and strong community ties.  The program will work to improve health care delivery and outcomes, and decrease costs among MSM’s adult patients between 40 and 75 years old who are at high risk for disease or who are living with multiple complex conditions.

With the patient-centered medical home model, clinicians have access to information on all lab results, medical orders and health care visits across multiple venues to ensure comprehensive, coordinated care for patients in the right setting at the right time.

“We are pleased to receive support from United Health Foundation and Optum to help us expand our efforts to improve the health of our community and help some of the most vulnerable individuals and families here in Atlanta,” said Valerie Montgomery Rice, M.D., president & Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine.  “Morehouse’s deep roots in the community make us uniquely positioned to address the health issues affecting our patients, and we look forward to expanding access to quality, coordinated care thanks to the foundation’s support.”

The support from United Health Foundation and Optum comes at a critical time as African Americans in the Atlanta metro area are disproportionately affected by serious chronic diseases and often lack access to quality health care.  In Atlanta’s Fulton and DeKalb counties alone, nearly 45,000 African-American person-years of life are lost each year due to poor access to health care.  Person-years of life is a measure of premature mortality that is an estimate of the years a person would have lived if he or she had not died prematurely.

Nationwide, African Americans have a higher rate compared to Caucasians of many chronic conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and obesity.  MSM’s Patient Centered Medical Home and Neighborhood Program is located within its Family Medicine clinical site, which provides 17,000 outpatient visits each year – mainly serving African-American patients with multiple chronic diseases.  The grant money and support from United Health Foundation and Optum will enable MSM to help these patients better manage their complex conditions, reduce emergency room visits and, as a result, improve community health and lower costs for individuals and the health system.

According to United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings®, Georgia ranks 38th among all 50 states in overall health.  The state has a high prevalence of costly chronic conditions, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“We are grateful to United Health Foundation and Optum for providing this support to Morehouse School of Medicine, which will help improve the lives of people who rely on these services and programs,” said State Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus).  “This partnership will enable MSM to expand its services and reach into underserved communities across Georgia.”

“United Health Foundation and Optum are supporting Morehouse School of Medicine’s efforts to bring innovative approaches to care that help improve people’s health and quality of life, particularly in underserved areas,” said Norman L. Wright, senior vice president of Optum and United Health Foundation board member.  “This grant to Morehouse School of Medicine’s patient-centered medical home helps expand new approaches to care that reward quality over quantity.”

MSM is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of individuals and communities; increasing the diversity of the health industry and scientific workforce; and addressing primary health care needs through programs in education and research service, with an emphasis on underserved urban and rural populations in Georgia and the nation.  MSM has a long history of serving the African-American community and was the first medical school established at a historically black college and university in the 20th century.  MSM is among the nation’s leading educators of primary care physicians and was recently recognized as the top institution among U.S. medical schools for its social mission.

About Morehouse School of Medicine
Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation's leading educators of
primary care physicians and was recognized by Annals of Internal Medicine in 2011 as the top
institution in the first study of U.S. medical schools for our social mission based on our production of primary care physicians, training of underrepresented minority doctors and placement of doctors practicing in underserved communities.  MSM faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care.  Morehouse School of Medicine is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master's degrees.  For more information, please visit  

About United Health Foundation
Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, United Health Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, United Health Foundation has committed more than $285 million to programs and communities around the world. We invite you to learn more at

About Optum
Optum is a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. With more than 80,000 people worldwide, Optum delivers intelligent, integrated solutions that help to modernize the health system and improve overall population health. Optum is part of the UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH).

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