Roadmaps Out of Fantasyland: RWJF’s Outbreaks Report and the National Health Preparedness Security Index

Jan 30, 2015, 5:47 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Outbreaks 2014

“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras,” the late Theodore Woodward, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, cautioned his students in the 1940s. Woodward’s warning is still invoked to discourage doctors from making rare medical diagnoses for sick patients, when more common ones are usually the cause.

And while many Americans have worried about contracting Ebola—in viral terms, a kind of “zebra”—more commonplace microbial “horses,” such as influenza and measles viruses, continue to pose far greater threats. For instance, a large multistate measles outbreak has been traced to Disneyland theme parks in California—while this year’s strain of seasonal flu has turned out to be severe and widespread.

One obvious conclusion is that many microbes remain a harmful health menace, expected to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans this year. Another—speaking of Disneyland—is that much of America appears to live in a kind of fantasyland, thinking that it is protected against infectious disease.

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Some Unconventional Approaches to Stress: Pioneering Ideas Podcast Episode 7

Jan 29, 2015, 7:00 PM, Posted by Lori Melichar

A man asking for money on the subway this week told me how Hurricane Sandy led to a series of events that left him stressed out by the challenges of putting food on the table for his children.

Recessions, hurricanes, violence—how many ways can we count that add stress to our lives? Whether dealing with economic stress, the stress of caring for an aging parent, or even the stress of keeping up with email, research shows that all of it affects our health. As Alexandra Drane, a guest in the latest episode of RWJF’s Pioneering Ideas podcast, puts it: “When life goes wrong, health goes wrong.”

This episode of the Pioneering Ideas podcast explores unconventional approaches to tackling stress­—and other health problems—with energizing possibilities that could also transform health and health care. From monitoring electricity use as a way of helping the elderly stay in their homes, to measuring the indirect health effects of social services (what if heating assistance led to greater medication adherence?), these conversations offer cutting-edge ideas for building a Culture of Health.

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Field Notes: What Cuba Can Teach Us about Building a Culture of Health

Jan 29, 2015, 9:54 AM, Posted by Maryjoan Ladden, Susan Mende

MaryJoan Ladden and Susan Mende Trip to Cuba

Ever since President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, there’s been growing excitement over the potential for new opportunities for tourism, as well as technology and business exchanges. Most people assume that the flow will be one-sided, with the United States providing expertise and investment to help Cuba’s struggling economy and decaying infrastructure.

That assumption would be wrong. America can—and already has—learned a lot from Cuba. At RWJF, we support MEDICC, an organization that strives to use lessons gleaned from Cuba’s health care system to improve outcomes in four medically underserved communities in the United States—South Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and the Bronx, N.Y. Even with very limited resources, Cuba has universal medical and dental care and provides preventive strategies and primary care at the neighborhood level, resulting in enviable health outcomes. Cuba has a low infant mortality rate and the lowest HIV rate in the Americas, for example—with a fraction of the budget spent in the United States.

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How Not to Flip Out: Flip the Clinic

Jan 27, 2015, 4:38 PM, Posted by Beth Toner

Flip the Clinic San Francisco January 2015 Hard at work at the first regional Flip the Clinic meeting in San Francisco

“If you’ve been waiting more than 15 minutes, please see the receptionist.”

That’s the sign that was posted on a bulletin board in the radiology clinic where I was waiting for an MRI earlier this month. The funny thing? It was so lost amid the other postings around it screaming for attention that I only saw it on my way out, as I waited for a copy of the disk with my MRI on it. It struck me as odd, and a little concerning; did that mean I should be worried the clinic staff might have forgotten about me if I’d been waiting more than 15 minutes?

Don’t get me wrong: I understand that unpreventable delays happen. For me, the most frustrating aspect of signs like this is that they take the power away from the patient. 

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How Data Will Help Me Keep My Resolution

Jan 27, 2015, 10:54 AM, Posted by Emmy Ganos

Pioneering the Use of Personal Health Data - Banner

It's a brand new year and like many Americans, I'm thinking about New Year’s resolutions—specifically, fitness and exercise resolutions. People who know me well know how I feel about working out (Hint: I don't like it. Or do it). But I have lots of good reasons for wanting to start. I turned 30 this year, so I’m starting to age out of that Young Invincible demographic (#GetCovered), and realizing that I am, in fact, “vincible.” As I get older, and watch my parents age, it's starting to hit home that getting to a particular shape or size really isn't the point. The point is getting my heart and body in the best shape I possibly can.

So this year, New Year’s resolution time feels a little different. And as I start thinking about making some changes, I’m reflecting back over the last two Data for Health listening sessions I attended in Charleston and San Francisco. As a result, I’ve decided that it’s time to think about setting my New Year’s resolutions in an entirely different way--by using data.

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Open Health Data: How To Go for the Gold?

Jan 16, 2015, 1:25 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Dr. Eric Topol Eric J. Topol, M.D.

In his new book, The Patient Will See You Now, Eric Topol, MD, invokes the famed Arabian folk tale One Thousand and One Nights, in which the poor woodcutter Ali Baba utters "Open Sesame" to unseal the cave where thieves have a treasure of gold coins. Topol asks "whether we, like Ali Baba, can breech the gate that keeps us from [health and health care] data, to a new world of openness and transparency."

It's worth remembering that, in the folk tale, Ali Baba does get rich — but after fighting over the gold, almost everybody else ends up dead.

So how do we ensure that the story of increasingly open health data has a more universally happy ending?

It won’t be easy, and Topol acknowledges the quandaries of dealing with the "gold" — the enormous flow of health data already under way.

Among the issues:

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So Much Data! How to Share the Wealth for Healthier Communities

Jan 14, 2015, 5:15 PM, Posted by Alonzo L. Plough

What Counts: Harnessing Data for America's Communities

The world of research and evaluation is experiencing a dramatic increase in the quantity and type of available data for analysis. Estimates are that an astonishing 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in just the past two years. This flood of facts, figures, and measurements brings with it an urgent need for innovative ways to collect and harness the data to provide relevant information to inform policy and advance social change. “Not long ago, we had a problem of insufficient data,” says Kathryn Pettit, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute. “Today we have more data than ever before, but we still need to build capacity to use it in meaningful ways.”

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What's Next Health: What We Can Achieve By Working Together

Jan 13, 2015, 10:49 AM, Posted by Marjorie Paloma

Nate Garvis Color How can it be charitable to work with a business whose motive is to make more profit? Marjorie Paloma shares thoughts from from Nate Garvis.

As part of our What’s Next Health series, RWJF regularly talks with leading thinkers about the future of health and health care. Recently, we spoke with Nate Garvis, founder and author of Naked Civics, about entrepreneurial thinking and how it can be applied to building a Culture of Health. RWJF Director Marjorie Paloma reflects on Nate's approach.

What would you be willing to do to learn?

This is just one of many provocative questions Nate Garvis of Naked Civics is asking the Foundation as we look to build a Culture of Health.

Many times, we come across people who seem to have all the answers. But Nate doesn’t pretend to. Instead, he uses questions that help us journey through an issue, guiding us toward a new type of discovery process—one that takes us to uncomfortable places and challenges us to work with unlikely bedfellows.

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One Blog, Many Voices

Jan 12, 2015, 11:00 AM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

We’re changing how we’re doing things here at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We’re striving to work better together to serve one big, bold goal: to build a Culture of Health in America. One way to get there? Shine a light on the stories across the country that bring this unified vision to life. It’s with this in mind that we will be ceasing publication of the Human Capital, NewPublicHealth and Pioneering Ideas blogs at the end of the month. From that point on, we’ll begin to tell our stories in one place: right here on our Culture of Health blog.

In the meantime, we want to hear from you. We invite you to tell us what kinds of posts you’re looking for in a brief online survey.

Your thoughts and ideas will help make sure we're offering more of the stories you want, and delivering them to you in the ways that meet your needs. We look forward to hearing from you—and thank you for your continued readership!

Changing the Conversation about Obesity

Jan 9, 2015, 4:02 PM, Posted by Darrin Anderson

Children play tether ball on a playground. "Our goal is to help children and communities achieve a healthy weight through prevention strategies that support access to affordable, healthy foods and increase opportunities for safe physical activity."

Nearly one in four children ages 10-17 in New Jersey is overweight or obese, leading to a plethora of adult-style health issues in kids,  such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Even more concerning: If the prevalence of obesity continues to rise, New Jersey’s obesity-related health care spending could quadruple to $9.3 billion by 2018. In order to truly have an impact on those costs, both human and monetary, we need to change the way we talk about obesity.

The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) recently hosted a conference to do just that. More than 300 community leaders, dietitians, teachers, school nurses, and social workers gathered at our Building Healthy, Equitable Communities conference on December 3 to talk about what works, and doesn’t work, in the fight against obesity. Ultimately, we all need to work together to build a Culture of Health in communities where everyone can reach optimal health, regardless of the color of their skin or where they live.

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