St. Cloud State University and CentraCare have teamed up to develop and conduct health-related research that will help improve health outcomes in Central Minnesota. The work will be done under the auspices of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR), located in SCSU’s newly renovated Eastman Hall, home of the Center of Health and Wellness, and will engage students in its work.
In September, St. Cloud State and CentraCare began their collaboration in answering health-related topics relevant to the community — locally, regionally and nationally — in terms of health outcomes and policy implications following the creation of CHOPR.
The research integrates academic and professional growth of both students and faculty with cutting-edge research on public health care topics and will result in providing real data in response to those topics. Initially, that research is primarily focused on the topic of obesity among children in Central Minnesota, along with food insecurity and access.
“CHOPR is more about organization and organizing the work that may be happening already,” said Dr. Monica Garcia-Perez, Professor of Economics at SCSU. “In the partnership, it becomes a balance between adding scientific analysis into the process of deciding where to distribute the resources and what to do for the area. There is a big hope in creating new opportunities for discussion in the community with this partnership.”
The partnership between St. Cloud State and CentraCare comes on the heels of the announcement in September involving CentraCare’s $1.5 million commitment to the university to benefit both the Graduate Nursing Education and CHOPR programs at SCSU.
“Having CentraCare’s support is key. The heart of CHOPR is, one, with St. Cloud State from a research perspective and the other is with the clinical perspective with the main health institution in the area,” Garcia-Perez said. “With CentraCare having its presence, it’s brings another level of credibility to the center in terms of their raising their voices and their support for this work.”
The Vision of CHOPR
Although the ultimate goal of CHOPR is to compile research-based data on health care topics, individuals involved with the program hope it ends up also benefiting St. Cloud State students, the community and health outcomes as a whole.
“My vision for the students is to be hands-on and having the vision of not just having an idea of what data is as a number, but to have them identifying issues and understanding what that means when you have real data that comes from real people and you’re answering real questions,” Garcia-Perez said. “This research is not something you download online. They will have the luxury to work with messy information and find how to make sense of that information.”
Among the students that hopes the research conducted within CHOPR will help in advancing him in his career beyond St. Cloud State is graduate assistant Rahim Sawadogo.
Sawadogo, who is from West Africa, is in his second semester at the University and is hoping to graduate in fall 2020 with a major in Applied Economics. He already received a master’s degree in Africa, but wanted to add to that by also getting one in the United States to allow him to “be more competitive in the market.”
“My goal is to take all the knowledge I am going to gain here and go back home, because we have a lot of issues that we can solve with all the knowledge (St. Cloud State) will give me here,” he said. “The biggest difference here is I have more chances to put what I learned into practice. At home, we worked more with theories and stuff, but here, we work with real data. I will see exactly how we do a report in the real world. That is the biggest different between my country and here.
“I hope that we can have these types of programs back home,” Sawadogo continued. “It would be really helpful for students like me to be a part of a program like this and learn from people who are already in this field. That would be great.”
Although it is a relatively new program at St. Cloud State, CHOPR and its vision is beginning to come into focus while it aims to benefit many throughout the community, region and beyond.
With the collaboration and partnership with CentraCare in conducting research for various health outcomes, many hope that CHOPR will be able to accomplish that and more moving forward.
“I think the students having this experience will make them very good researchers and very good employees at any workplace, because they are thinking critically, logically and systematically on how to solve an issue,” Garcia-Perez said. “That’s going to be an added value to their skills in their field. This hands-on experience will be major.”