The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing announced Wednesday that it’s launching a Washington, D.C., research institute that aims to move the U.S. health care system away from its focus on treating problems and toward preventive, whole-person care.

The Institute for Policy Solutions “will focus on promoting and advancing cutting-edge, evidence-based and actionable nurse-led solutions that prioritize health equity and whole-person care,” according to a news release.

Nurses provide the “lion’s share of health care,” in the U.S., said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, director of the institute, although physicians typically get the credit for it. Nurses’ clinical skills and intense engagement with patients make them particularly well suited to design and deliver interventions that can make a difference in the health of underserved communities, he said.

Nurses’ vantage point “at the center of health care,” and their training to see patients “as whole people,” prepares them to lead efforts to improve community health, said Sarah Szanton, dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. They are “the problem solvers, the innovators, the people who see what needs to be done and then they do it,” she said.

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The institute aims to promote value-based care, which uses payment models that incentivize healthy outcomes instead of service volume, and whole-person care, which integrates physical and psychological health with social identity and environment.

“A focus on eliminating racist policies and structures entrenched in the country’s health care establishment and other systems that impact people’s ability to be healthy (housing, education, workforce, etc.) will underpin the Institute’s work,” the news release said.

Guilamo-Ramos most recently held leadership roles at the Duke University School of Nursing but also has direct-care experience as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner, dually licensed to provide psychiatric care, and worked in academia as a doctorate-level epidemiologist.

He started out as a social worker in the Bronx community where he grew up, as the son of Puerto Rican and Dominican immigrants. Social work established a foundation for the rest of his career, Guilamo-Ramos said, because “it started to help me see that it was important to go from a particular case to a larger cause,” and look at the social and economic forces at work behind the problems people experienced.

Vincent Guilamo-Ramos is director of the Institute for Policy Solutions. (Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Univ)

Guilamo-Ramos envisions the work of the institute will take place at the intersection of social work, public health and nursing, he said, which will bring together a big-picture focus on social and economic causes of health inequity, a data-driven, evidence-based approach; and “the very important clinical skills” nurses possess which allow them to assess and respond to health needs.

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The institute will amplify research and solutions to community health problems from faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing as well as from other related disciplines, Guilamo-Ramos said, and “serve as the bridge for getting those closer to the people that can actually impact the change.”

The institute will be housed at Hopkins’s gleaming new modern building in Washington, D.C., on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between the Capitol building and the White House. The building opened to graduate students this fall and was dedicated last month.

A press reception to mark its official launch on Wednesday will feature institute leaders and speakers such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Ben Cardin, with a discussion between “visionary health experts and thought leaders” just prior.

Sarah True was a public health reporter for the Baltimore Banner. She previously worked as a freelance journalist covering healthcare and health policy, and has been both a medical social worker and a health policy analyst in a past life. She holds dual Master’s degrees in public health and social work.

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