A UCLA researcher is launching a first-of-its-kind study to document the impact of urologic diseases on the American public, an endeavor that may influence insurance coverage, access to care, the allocation of research dollars and the availability of treatments and services.
Study leader Dr. Mark S. Litwin, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and an associate professor in the departments of Urology and Health Services, said the effort represents the first coordinated attempt to detail the significant burden of a variety of urologic diseases that strike American men, women and children.
"The burden of urologic diseases on the American public is immense in both human and financial terms, and it has never been fully documented before," said Litwin, who also studies quality of life issues in prostate cancer patients and is directing a state-funded, $50-million program that provides prostate cancer care to poor and uninsured men. "This work will frame the current debate on this issue. It will provide a valid foundation for public discourse."
The five-year $6.9 million grant to UCLA comes from the National Institutes of Health and will be administered by the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Research at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center.
Urologic diseases include conditions that are congenital and acquired, cancerous and non-cancerous and affect both males and females. The study will focus on urologic cancers, such as prostate cancer, bladder cancer, testicular cancer and kidney cancer, but also will examine high-profile disorders such as male sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence, Litwin said.
The information gleaned from the study will be critical to the allocation of resources at the national, state and local levels, Litwin said.
An exhaustive nationwide search will be conducted for data on urologic diseases from such sources as the National Center for Health Statistics, Medicare and Medicaid, state and county organizations, private foundations and published literature.
Researchers will study current and retrospective data on all aspects of care, including costs trends, changes in physician practice patterns, patient demographics, outcomes, length of hospital stays, outpatient resources, pharmaceutical use and the availability and type of insurance coverage.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers will provide a report in written and electronic (CD-ROM) formats for use by legislators, health care professionals and policymakers and the public.
"We know of no comparable work in progress anywhere in the United States," Litwin said. "We hope to produce a comprehensive compendium of health information on urologic diseases."
The study will be led and coordinated by Litwin at UCLA, while data analysis will be done at RAND by a team of statisticians, epidemiologists, a health economist, a communications specialist and programmers.
Researchers from the VA Greater Los Angeles HSR&D Center of Excellence, a consortium of investigators from Veterans Affairs campuses at UCLA, the University of California, San Diego, and RAND, will provide epidemiological consultation and conduct the epidemiological and health services research analyses of VA data. - By Kim Irwin
[Contact: Kim Irwin, Kambra McConnel]