Jul 18 2013
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Human Capital News Roundup: Interpreters at pediatric appointments, air pollution’s effect on life expectancy, fast food restaurants near schools, 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:

The majority of pediatricians use bilingual family members instead of professional interpreters to communicate with patients with limited understanding of English, according to a study led by RWJF Clinical Scholars alumna Lisa DeCamp, MD. Family members may make errors or withhold sensitive or painful information, DeCamp told Reuters. Two other Clinical Scholars alumnae, who were not involved in the study, also spoke to Reuters about the findings: Lisa Diamond, MD, MPH, and Darcy Thompson, MD, MPH.

Nearly 500 million people living north of the Huai River in Northern China will lose an estimated 2.5 billion life years—or five years each, on average—because of air pollution from widespread coal burning, the Washington Post reports. The data come from a new study co-authored by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumni Michael Greenstone, PhD, and Avraham Ebenstein, PhD. Greenstone tells the Washington Post he was “surprised by the magnitude of the effect.”

A study led by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Magdalena Cerdá, PhD, MPH, finds New York City saw a sevenfold increase in opioid overdoses from 1990 to 2006, Pain Medicine News reports. The trend has largely been driven by White individuals who live in areas with “high income inequality but lower than average rates of poverty.”

A study co-authored by Health & Society Scholar Sonya A. Grier, PhD, MBA, finds that Black and Hispanic adolescents are more likely than students of other races to be overweight if their schools are near fast-food restaurants, the Los Angeles Sentinel reports. The study also finds having a fast-food restaurant a mile nearer to school “may cancel the benefits of up to three days of exercise per week” for that same group of students.

Childhood is the time to try out many different things, but kids “should try to get a complete experience with a class or team before moving on to something else,” Scholar in Health Policy Research alumna Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, told the Today Show’s Moms blog. Older children, especially, need to learn to follow through on their commitments, she says. Levey Friedman is author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture.

Clinical Scholars alumnus and RWJF Health Policy Fellows alumnus Art Kellermann, MD, MPH, spoke to the Denver Post about his 1994 research that found home invasion victims rarely used a firearm in self-defense. Such instances accounted for just three of the 198 Atlanta cases (1.5 percent) Kellermann studied. “It's an infrequent event bordering on rare,” Kellermann said.

The Scientific American Brainwaves blog cites research by RWJF Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research recipient Gary Taubes, MSE, MS, on the harmful effects of sugar. Read a post Taubes wrote for the RWJF Human Capital Blog about that research and the Nutrition Science Initiative.

Investigator Award recipients Theda Skocpol, PhD, and Matthew C. Nisbet, PhD, spoke to The Hill about President Obama’s newly aggressive message on climate change. The administration now has its “eye on the judgment of history, rather than the judgment of the mass electorate,” Skocpol said.

“Forced sterilization has always targeted people considered the least valuable in our society,” Investigator Award recipient Dorothy Roberts, JD, told The Nation in an interview about forced sterilization and the future of the women’s movement. “In the early twentieth century, that meant white immigrants, by the mid-20th century, that meant poor women, black and Puerto Rican women, and other women of color whose bodies were not seen as fit to be protected by the state.”

Carl V. Phillips, PhD, scientific director of the Consumers Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association and an alumnus of the Scholars in Health Policy Research program, spoke to the Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas) about policies that allow employees to use e-cigarettes in their offices.

Salon.com spoke to Brendan Nyhan, PhD, a Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus who studies the media’s role in reporting scandals, about how the media covered allegations that the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted specific political groups applying for tax-exempt status. “In other circumstances, the first reports might not have immediately turned into a media firestorm, but the context was very favorable for a scandal to develop and so the media largely embraced the targeting story before all the facts were known,” Nyhan said.

The United States should focus on educating more young people “for jobs computers cannot do,” because technology may soon replace a huge portion of the workforce, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research recipient Frank Levy, PhD, warns in a paper he co-authored. The paper is the culmination of a study about jobs lost to automation in recent years, and the outlook for the future as technology advances, the Washington Post reports.

Tags: Barriers to care: language and literacy, Clinical Scholars, Environmental health, Health & Society Scholars, Health Policy Fellows, Human Capital, Human Capital News, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Media Coverage, Research, Research & Analysis, Scholars in Health Policy Research