U-M as the engine of a global learning system to transform health

With this project, funded by a U-M Global Challenges for a Third Century grant, Charles Friedman will lead a team of 43 faculty members and senior staff from 10 academic units in developing key elements that make possible a complete Learning Health System (LHS) at national and ultimately global scale.

Start date: 6/1/2013
End date: 5/31/2014

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There is no greater global challenge than improving the health of individuals and populations. Nations around the world, including the U.S., are plagued by rising health costs, inconsistent safety and outcomes, a persistent latency between best practice knowledge and its actual application in health maintenance and healthcare, and an inefficient public health and biomedical research infrastructure. 

In the face of these challenges, there is increasing recognition that improved individual and population health can be catalyzed by a national-scale Learning Health System (LHS) that capitalizes on the increasing amount of health data accessible in digital form. The LHS is effectively a smart grid for health, a multi-stakeholder federation that enables continuous access to data relevant to any specific health problem. In this way, the LHS enables a continuously operating cycle of health improvement through study, feedback, and change, and can promote positive action and health behavioral change.

This project will align with and empower growing national and international mobilization efforts to achieve an LHS. The team of researchers will develop key elements that make possible a complete LHS at national and ultimately global scale. Because most LHS development efforts to date have emphasized the aggregation and analysis of data to generate new knowledge, this project will develop rigorous and scalable methods to disseminate that new knowledge back to the stakeholders to promote behaviors and decisions that improve health. 

The project’s approach will be grounded in four domains relevant to the socio-technical challenge of knowledge dissemination: science, engagement, technology, and policy. The first phase will develop key capabilities of the LHS with reference to two specific case scenarios: one relating to the needs of persons with multiple chronic diseases, and the second relating to public health disease surveillance. These capabilities are essential to transform the LHS into a complete high-performance system that can achieve its ambitious goals.


Global Challenges for a Third Century: UM as the Engine of a Global "Learning System" to Transform Health, University of Michigan’s Global Challenges for a Third Century: $293,500


The University of Michigan’s Global Challenges for a Third Century grant program aims to inspire and cultivate transformative ideas about how to address some of the greatest challenges facing the world today.