Jul 28 2014
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What Protects Our Children from the Effects of Stress?

Lorraine McKelvey, PhD, is an associate professor of family and preventive medicine and pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections program (2008-2009) whose work focuses on vulnerable populations.

Lorraine McKelvey New Connections 2014sm

For children, stress can come from sources inside and outside the family. It was recently documented that nearly two out of every three children in the United States have witnessed or been victims of violence in their homes, schools, or communities. That’s a staggering statistic when we consider the well-established link between children’s exposure to stress and their long-term mental and physical health outcomes.

Indeed, we know that early exposure to adverse experiences can change the way that our brains develop and function. We also know that exposure to adversity increases the likelihood that children will develop psychosocial problems, like depression, aggression, and other antisocial behaviors. There is even evidence that exposure to stressors in childhood increases the likelihood of having heart disease and cancer in adulthood!

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Jul 25 2014
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Working to Improve Nursing Education and Promote Academic Progression

Juliann Sebastian, PhD, RN, FAAN, is dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing and president-elect of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows program (1998-2001).

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Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your recent election as president-elect, and future president, of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)! What is your vision for the 2014-2016 term?

Juliann Sebastian: I am honored to have been selected by the members of AACN to serve in this role for an organization that is pivotal to the future of baccalaureate and higher degree nursing education. I support the president and the board in advancing our shared vision of excellence in nursing education, research, and practice.

I look forward to working with the entire board to address issues of concern to AACN’s member schools. Because AACN’s membership encompasses large/small, public/private institutions, we have the special advantage of incorporating diverse voices into shaping the organization’s vision. I am enthusiastic about deepening my opportunity to support the vision AACN has identified for itself and the profession.

  •  AACN’s own vision is: “By 2020, as a driving force for quality health care, AACN will leverage member schools in meeting the demand for innovation and leadership in nursing education, research and practice.”
  • AACN’s vision statement for the profession is: “By 2020, highly educated and diverse nursing professionals will lead the delivery of quality health care and the generation of new knowledge to improve health and the delivery of care services.”

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Jul 24 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Stereotype threat, hand hygiene, misbehaving science, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

Anxiety caused by “stereotype threat” could help explain health disparities that persist across race, suggests research co-authored by Cleopatra Abdou, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna. News Medical covers the study, describing it as the first of its kind to empirically test, in the context of health sciences, the impact of the “threat of being judged by or confirming a negative stereotype about a group you belong to.” Abdou’s research offers a possible explanation for ethnic and socioeconomic differences in morbidity and mortality between Black and White women because, as Abdou says, the research goes beyond nature vs. nurture, “bringing situation and identity into the equation.” For example, in the study, Black women with a strong connection to their race had the highest anxiety levels when in waiting rooms filled with posters that displayed negative health-related racial stereotypes dealing with such topics as unplanned pregnancy and AIDS.

Having health insurance improves access to medical care for pregnant, low-income women, and results in long-term health benefits for their babies, according to a study by RWJF Scholar in Health Policy Research Sarah Miller, PhD, and RWJF Health & Society Scholar Laura Wherry, PhD, that was reported by Vox. Miller and Wherry found the expansion of Medicaid in the 1980s made prenatal care much more accessible to low-income women, many of whom would otherwise have been without insurance. The result was improvements in obesity, preventable hospitalizations, and preventable, chronic disease-related hospitalizations among children. 

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Jul 24 2014
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Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge: The July 2014 Issue

Have you signed up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge? The monthly Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) e-newsletter will keep you up to date on the work of the Foundation’s nursing programs, and the latest news, research, and trends relating to academic progression, leadership, and other essential nursing issues. Following are some of the stories in the July issue.

Nurses Lead Innovations in Geriatrics and Gerontology
As the nation becomes older and more diverse, and more people are living with chronic health problems, nurses are developing innovations in geriatric care. They are finding new ways to improve the quality of care for older adults; increase access to highly skilled health care providers with training in geriatrics; narrow disparities that disproportionately affect older minorities; avoid preventable hospital readmissions; and more. Nurse-led innovations are underway across the nation to improve care for older Americans.

Improving Care for the Growing Number of Americans with Dementia
By 2050, 16 million Americans—more than triple the current number—will have Alzheimer’s disease. RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars are working now to get ahead of the problem. “We’re all well aware of our aging population and how we’re going to see more individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia,” says alumna Elizabeth Galik, PhD, CRNP, who is researching ways to improve functional and physical activity among older adults with dementia.

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Jul 23 2014
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Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Linda Charmaraman is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and a former National Institute of Child Health and Human Development postdoctoral scholar. She is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee, examining the potential of social media networks to promote resiliency in vulnerable populations.

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If you were stressed out and wanted to vent to your friends about it, how would you let them know? Would you pick up the phone and talk, or text? Would you set up time to grab coffee or go for a brisk walk? Or would you post to Facebook why your day just couldn’t get any worse?

As I logged into the recent RWJF/NPR/Harvard School of Public Health-sponsored Stress in America discussion, I identified with the panelists who were dispelling stereotypes about “highly stressed” individuals being high-level executives or those at the top of the ladder. Instead of finding work-related stress as a top concern, as is often played out in the media and popular culture, the researchers were finding that individuals with health concerns, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals were experiencing the highest levels of stress. The panelists talked about the importance of qualities like resiliency and the ability to turn multiple, competing stressors into productive challenges to overcome, and the integral role of communities in shaping, buffering, and/or exacerbating stress.

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Jul 23 2014
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Stay Up to Date with RWJF!

Want to stay on top of the latest news from RWJF? Check out all the ways you can get the latest news delivered to you:

Jul 22 2014
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A Closer Look at Contributors to Stress for Latinos

Gabriel R. Sanchez, PhD, is an associate professor of political science at the University of New Mexico (UNM), executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at UNM, and director of research for Latino Decisions. Yajaira Johnson-Esparza is a PhD Candidate in the UNM department of psychology and an RWJF Fellow at the University. 

Gabriel Sanchez, PhD Gabriel Sanchez, PhD

A recent survey conducted by RWJF, NPR, and the Harvard School of Public Health focused our attention on the burdens that stress poses for Americans. We want to focus our attention in this blog post on factors that may be leading to stress among the Latino population. Although the experience of stress is very common, the experience and burden of stress is not uniform across people in the United States. 

One of the main findings that emerged from the recent RWJF/NPR/Harvard survey was the strong role of health problems in stress in the United States, with 27 percent of respondents noting that illness or disease was a major source of stress over the past year. In addition to the direct impact of being sick, the financial burdens associated with needing medical care can generate a lot of stress. We have found support for this finding in some of our own work at the UNM RWJF Center for Health Policy. For example, a recent survey we helped produce found that 28 percent of  Latino adults indicated that because of medical bills, they have been unable to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, or heat, with 40 percent indicating they have had trouble paying their other bills. The financial stress associated with illness can have a devastating impact on Latinos.

Yajaira Johnson-Esparza Yajaira Johnson-Esparza

Latinos in the United States also face unique stressors from other Americans due to their language use, nativity, and experiences with discrimination. Being followed in a store, being denied employment or housing, and being told that you do not speak English well can all lead to stress for Latinos.

More specifically, the current political climate surrounding immigration politics and policy has led to an increase in discrimination directed toward Latinos, and consequently stress levels. Our Center has been tracking immigration laws passed at the state level over time; we have found a significant increase in passage of punitive laws during the economic recession, with more than 200 immigration laws being passed in 2009 alone.  A June 2011 impreMedia/Latino Decisions (LD) poll reveals that Latino voters are conscious of this tense landscape, as 76 percent of respondents believe that an anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant environment exists today. 

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Jul 21 2014
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Federal Government Sets Aside Funds to Boost Access to Primary Care

The federal government announced on July 7 it had awarded more than $83 million to expand access to care by training hundreds of new primary care providers.

The money will be used to support primary care residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, geriatrics, and general dentistry at 60 health centers across the country. The expanded residency programs will help train more than 550 residents in coming academic year—about 200 more than were trained in the previous academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The funds will also be used to boost the number of states with teaching health centers from 21 to 24.

“This program not only provides training to primary care medical and dental residents, but also galvanizes communities,” said Mary K. Wakefield, PhD, RN, head of the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of HHS. “It brings hospitals, academic centers, health centers, and community organizations together to provide top-notch medical education and services in areas of the country that need them most.”

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Jul 18 2014
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Building a Culture of Health at AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting

RWJF Leadership Reception at the AcademyHealth annual meeting in San Diego in June 2014 RWJF Leadership Reception at the AcademyHealth annual meeting in San Diego in June 2014

At this year’s AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting, held in San Diego, California June 8–10, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) hosted “Building a Culture of Health: An RWJF Leadership Reception.” More than 100 RWJF scholars, fellows, and alumni representing 14 RWJF Human Capital programs joined with colleagues and friends of the Foundation for the gathering at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. There, health providers, clinicians, researchers, and graduate students made and renewed the important professional connections that RWJF facilitates.

Among those attending the reception were RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus and RWJF Clinical Scholars Associate Program Director (University of Pennsylvania program site) David Grande, MA, MPA, who presented his paper, “How Do Health Policy Researchers Perceive and Use Social Media to Disseminate Science to Policymakers?,” at the meeting; RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars Lusine Poghosyan, PhD, MPH, RN, and J. Margo Brooks Carthon, PhD, APRN, who chaired and served as a panelist, respectively, at a health care workforce session; and Clinical Scholars Tammy Chang, MD, MPH, MS, and Katherine A. Auger, MD, M.Sc., who were both chosen as recipients of the AcademyHealth Presidential Scholarship for New Health Services Researchers. This scholarship provides financial support to attend the meeting, and recognizes early-career researchers who demonstrate leadership ability and potential to contribute to the field of health services research.

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Jul 17 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Gun violence, suicide, ‘structural’ versus ‘cultural’ competency, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

An NPR story quotes RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus Andrew Papachristos, PhD, citing his extensive research on gun violence. Papachristos criticizes the lack of context in media coverage of violence, noting that incidents such as the series of shootings over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago tend to be treated simply as a long stretch of violent incidents. “Treating Chicagoland violence as merely a tally necessarily dehumanizes its victims, but it also obscures so much of the larger story about that violence. It's data without context.” Not only is the murder rate steadily declining in Chicago, but there is a massive disparity in victims of these crimes: “Eighty-five percent of violence—any shootings—happens among 5 percent of people,” Papachristos says.

In an article about libertarianism and state laws related to guns and other topics, the Economist cites a study about the social costs of gun ownership by RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipients Philip Cook, PhD, and Jens Ludwig, PhD. It finds that “more guns empirically lead to more gun-related violence, largely because legally purchased guns somehow end up in the hands of criminals via theft,” gun shows, and online sales, which are largely unregulated. To address these issues, Cook and Ludwig suggest making it costlier to buy guns in high-crime areas, and improving the records used to screen gun buyers by including more information on possible mental-health problems, among other proposals. (Free registration required to view article.)

A study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus Alexander Tsai, PhD, MD, finds that men who are more socially connected are half as likely to commit suicide as men considered loners, NBC News reports. The study looks at data on nearly 35,000 men, ages 40 to 75, and finds that those who are more isolated are at greater risk, even if they are not mentally ill. “Public health practitioners think about things like cardiovascular disease as warranting public health attention,” says Tsai, suggesting that suicide may also need attention.

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