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Anschutz: City of Health

These articles originally were published in a 48-page special section of the Denver Business Journal, March 25-31, 2016. Together, they provide unique insight into the world-class health care and innovation that are the hallmarks of CU Anschutz, one of the nation’s foremost medical complexes.

Click here to see the entire special edition of the Denver Business Journal. 


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$10 million pledge creates National Behavioral Health Innovation Center at CU Anschutz

Colorado’s newest center dedicated to improving mental and behavioral health has been established with a $10 million five-year commitment from The Anschutz Foundation, one of the largest program pledges in the history of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The National Behavioral Health Innovation Center is housed at CU Anschutz in Aurora, but is designed as a “virtual center” to serve people in Colorado and across the nation, by identifying and implementing behavioral health solutions, making connections to national experts, and providing resources to build connections among community leaders across the state.

Matt Vogl

Matt Vogl is the executive director of the new National Behavioral Health Innovation Center

“There are few areas of health care more important and less understood than mental and behavioral health,” says CU President Bruce Benson. “By investing in a center with a focus on finding innovative approaches to prevention, identification and treatment through intensive collaboration with partners all across our state, The Anschutz Foundation is investing in a brighter future for all people who suffer from a behavioral health condition. We couldn’t be more grateful for their continued philanthropic partnership.”

“With this commitment, The Anschutz Foundation is hoping to help bring together resources and expertise to rapidly move the needle for mental and behavioral health in meaningful ways,” says Executive Director of The Anschutz Foundation Ted Harms. “We want to see the NBHIC become an example of what is possible when great minds band together to effect change, and, ultimately, to become a model for fostering the implementation of new and innovative approaches to behavioral health care across the country.”

Matt Vogl, MPH, has been named NBHIC executive director, reporting jointly to CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman and to an NBHIC board of directors made up of prominent community, business, philanthropy and health care leaders who will guide the NBHIC’s work and ensure its relevance and sustainability into the future.

The NBHIC will engage the best minds across diverse industries in Colorado and nationally to help identify high-value focus areas for behavioral health innovation, identify subject matter experts, and assist in building community and organizational partnerships.

“Our vision for the NBHIC is to build a model for how people who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse should be treated as part of the health care continuum,” Vogl says. “To do so, we will work to become a state where stigma is absent, early identification and care is the norm, high-quality treatment is accessible to people in every community, and those in recovery get the support they need to return to a full and vital life.”

The NBHIC’s leadership is reaching out to community leaders to inform the center’s priorities and identify areas in which communities have developed innovative behavioral health solutions that warrant further exploration and possible expansion. Early interest is emerging in the design of employer-driven health promotion and coverage models, and in introducing the relevance of behavioral health to students entering diverse professions in business, education and other non-health care fields.

“The ongoing leadership of The Anschutz Foundation in the mental and behavioral health arena is inspiring,” says CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman. “Our hope is that the NBHIC will help unite disparate efforts across our state and our region, and help accelerate progress by convening leaders and facilitating knowledge sharing. Together, we will usher in a new era of innovation in behavioral health.”

CU has some 61,000 degree-seeking students across its four campuses and another 8,000 taking courses for credit. The university graduates more students than any university in Colorado, about 14,000 last year. CU is well-positioned to lead efforts to integrate mental and behavioral wellness into the workplace and the classroom, and to share knowledge gained with others interested in following suit.

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High school football helmets offer similar protections despite prices

Despite prices, promises and even ratings systems, all helmets approved for high school football players appear to offer similar protection against concussion, according to a new study from the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus .

“All of the approved helmets evaluated in our study performed similarly,” said Dawn Comstock, PhD, senior author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology at the Program for Injury Prevention, Education and Research (PIPER) at the Colorado School of Public Health. “Increased cost does not necessarily translate to improved safety.”

The study, the first national football concussion research evaluating how helmets performed when worn by young athletes playing the game rather than how helmets performed in laboratory impact testing, also found that older, reconditioned helmets performed similarly to new helmets as long as the reconditioning was done in a timely manner.

The researchers examined high school football concussion and helmet data collected from 2008-2009 through 2012-2013 as part of the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System, High School RIO (Reporting Information Online), directed by Comstock.

They found that participating schools reported 2,900 football concussions per 3,528,790 `athletic exposures’ (AE) or one athlete participating in one practice or competition. That came out to an overall rate of 8.2 concussions per 10,000 AEs.

When comparing concussions sustained by athletes wearing different helmets, the researchers found the average number of concussion symptoms, symptom resolution time and time until the injured athlete was released to return to play were similar among football players wearing the most common make and model of helmet.

Dawn Comstock, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz

Helmets that were not new but which had been reconditioned within the 12 months prior to use, performed similarly to new helmets. But players wearing old helmets which had not been recently reconditioned suffered longer concussion symptoms than those wearing new helmets.

The data indicated that helmet rating scales may be somewhat misleading to parents or schools considering helmet purchases as higher ratings based on laboratory testing did not necessarily correlate to increased protection “on the field” for high school football players.

“We found helmets with high ratings performed similarly to helmets with lower ratings,” Comstock said. “At the same time, the most expensive helmet did not appear to provide significantly increased protection compared to less expensive helmets.”

The study found that as long as the helmets had a NOCSAE or National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment seal, a National Federation of State High School Association requirement for high school football, they provided similar protection.

Comstock said parents can play an active role in ensuring that the football helmets worn by their children are safe by asking how long it has been since a helmet issued to their child has been reconditioned.  Parents should insist that their schools are following the reconditioning guidelines of manufacturers.

“Many parents don’t think to ask if the helmet issued to their child is new or previously used or, if not new, when it was last reconditioned,” Comstock said.  “Parents should be asking questions and not assuming that the helmet assigned to their child is safe.”

The study was published online this week in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.



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Study finds association between indoor tanning and substance abuse

Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have shown an association between indoor tanning and substance abuse among Colorado high school students.

“A growing national body of evidence links indoor tanning with other risky health-related behavior among adolescents,” said study author Robert Dellavalle, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

The study, which appears online today in JAMA Dermatology, says the motivation behind indoor tanning offers clues to why it is also tied to other risky behaviors.

Dr. Robert Dellavalle, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Dellavalle, who also practices at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said people tan for both psychological and physiological reasons.

“For example, indoor tanning and use of steroids may both stem from the motivation to enhance one’s appearance,” he said. “Data also implicate addictive physiological pathways in indoor tanning that may be similar to those of substance abuse.”

Research has shown that indoor tanning can release endorphins in users that can be addictive.

The study used the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey of health data from Colorado public schools. A total of 12,144 students answered the question, “During the last 12 months, how many times did you use an indoor tanning device such as a sunlamp, sunbed or tanning booth?”

The analysis showed females were almost twice as likely to engage in indoor tanning as males. Researchers also found that any lifetime use of steroids was the variable most strongly associated with indoor tanning, especially among males.

“Any alcohol consumption within the prior 30 days and marijuana use were also associated with indoor tanning, as was lifetime use of select illicit drugs,” the study said.

Dellavalle said indoor tanning is potentially dangerous. The World Health Organization has deemed UV radiation as a group 1 carcinogen putting users at a higher risk of melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

“Risky behaviors tend to go together,” Dellavalle said. “So someone who does indoor tanning may more easily move on to other risky behaviors like illicit drug use.”

The researchers urged physicians treating those who use indoor tanning to consider assessing them for steroid use, especially if the patient is an adolescent male. They also said parents should get involved.

“If you are a parent and your child is tanning,” Dellavalle said, “you should also check for drug abuse.”

The study co-authors include Myra Sendelweck, ME, of CU Anschutz, Eric Bell, PhD, Amy Marie Anderson, MPH, Kurt Ashack, BA, Talia Pindyck, MD, Cate Townley, MURP, MUD.

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