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Special Populations

Sometimes visible to us, but more often hidden in plain sight, special populations inhabit the margins of our society, each with a unique set of needs. Ethnic minorities, veterans, disabled people, prison inmates, refugees and immigrants, children, and the elderly all face complex challenges as they strive to attain the advantages that other groups enjoy. Recent political events have added more pressure, such as increased U.S. military operations that have produced more veterans with special needs. Meanwhile, the weakening of traditional sources of economic stability, like home ownership, places special populations at even greater risk of hardship.

NORC helps government and organizations understand, evaluate—even manage—the programs and interventions that support these special populations and improve their circumstances. We have worked in this area since the 1950s, concentrating at that time on rural residents and welfare recipients. In the mid 1970s, NORC partnered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a longitudinal study to evaluate the efficacy of the Experimental Housing Allowance Program. The 1980s brought new insights about disadvantaged ethnic groups when NORC partnered with distinguished sociologist William Julius Wilson on the Urban Poverty and Family Life Survey of Chicago. More recently, NORC leveraged its extensive work on the National Immunization Survey (using the State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey data collection mechanism) to develop separate surveys on adoptive parents and children with special needs.

Today, NORC’s work emphasizes healthcare and other issues that touch multiple special populations. For example, our work with the Department of Veterans examines healthcare access for rural veterans living far from urban veterans’ hospitals. We also designed a multi-mode data collection and feasibility study on the natural history of children born with Spina Bifida; served as a partner on the highly complex, award-winning HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study; and continue to serve in an information management role for the Traumatic Brain Injury Technical Assistance Center.

Key to any work on special populations is knowing the right questions to ask and asking them in a highly sensitive manner. NORC brings this expertise, a broad understanding of quantitative and qualitative methodology, and deep knowledge about health information technology to uncover the insights that lead to effective decision making and planning.

Specific areas of expertise include:

Representative Projects

Descriptive Study of the Coordination of Tribal TANF and Child Welfare Services. ​In 2011, the Office of Family Assistance (OFA), Administration for Children and Families (ACF) awarded grants to 14 tribes and tribal organizations to coordinate tribal TANF and child welfare services to address family risk factors for child abuse and neglect. The grantees agreed to participate in a study as a condition of the grant award. The Study of Coordination of Tribal TANF and Child Welfare Services is sponsored by ACF's Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. James Bell Associates is the lead entity on the project; NORC at the University of Chicago and the Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Health at the University of Colorado at Denver are project partners.  The goal of this three year study is to document the ways in which the tribal grantees are creating and adapting culturally relevant and appropriate approaches, systems, and programs to increase coordination and enhance service delivery to address child abuse and neglect. More

Developing and Conducting an Evaluation of AoA's Program to Prevent Elder Abuse. ​The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), Department of Health and Human Services, has contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to design and conduct an evaluation of pilot interventions to prevent elder mistreatment through the Elder Abuse Prevention Interventions Program, which is funded by the Administration on Aging (AoA) and mandated by the Elder Justice Act.  The purpose of the project is to study the development and implementation of state grantees' elder abuse interventions, analyze administrative data, and report findings on the characteristics of victims and perpetrators of elder abuse or those at-risk, use of prevention services, and performance measures. More

Evaluation of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. On behalf of NSF, NORC is conducting a study that will provide rigorous evidence of the impact of the GRFP on individuals’ educational decisions, career preparations, aspirations and progress, as well as professional productivity; and provide an understanding of how the program is implemented by universities and whether and how specific program policies could be adjusted to make the program more effective in meeting its goals.
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Financial Alignment Initiative Operation Support Contract. The purpose of this project is to assist the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) with services to support the implementation of the Financial Alignment Initiative, a demonstration to test new approaches to providing integrated administrative, service delivery, and payment models for those individuals enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. States may choose to participate in two different models under the demonstration: 1) capitated model, and 2) managed-fee-for service model (MFFS). Under the capitated model, CMS and the state enter into a three-way contract with selected health plans to provide integrated benefits to individuals dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid and health plans receive a capitation rate for the full continuum of benefits provided to enrollees. Under the MFFS model, states have the flexibility to develop innovative approaches to coordinate care for this population, building upon Medicaid health homes, primary care case management programs, or other models. States participating in the MFFS model are eligible for a retrospective performance payment based on federal savings and quality outcomes achieved by enrollees. Any intervention must ensure seamless integration and access to all necessary services through coordination across the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  More

National Survey of Early Care and Education. The NSECE will gather information from multiple sources to provide rich data on the types of providers of early care and education, as well as the needs, constraints and preferences of families with children age 13 and under as they seek and use non-parental care for their children. More

See all Special Populations projects

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