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What Will it Take to Help All Kids Grow Up at a Healthy Weight?

Mar 4, 2015, 11:16 AM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

We can all play a role in helping children grow up to a healthy weight, including the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Their work is helping make strides in reducing childhood obesity rates. Here's how.

A group of teens playing soccer.

Washington, DC’s Shaw neighborhood is named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the famed 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the all-black regiment that fought for the Union during the Civil War. Today, the multi-ethnic neighborhood is home to the U Street Corridor, a revived commercial district known in the early 1900s as “Black Broadway;” Ben’s Chili Bowl, a celebrated city landmark; and Seaton Elementary, a public school whose students are mainly Hispanic, African American, and Asian.  

It’s also home to the young goalie of Seaton’s soccer team, sixth grader Kevin Alvarez.

Like many kids in his neighborhood, Kevin, 13, never played sports until recently, and was seriously overweight. Then his school was fortunate to become home to Soccer for Success®, a program managed locally by DC SCORES, a Washington, DC nonprofit.

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Poll: People Worry about Far More than Disease When it Comes to Health

Mar 3, 2015, 9:52 AM, Posted by Catherine Arnst

Q&A with Robert Blendon, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

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This week a public opinion poll was released by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health asking people to list the factors most likely to cause ill health in adults. The top five included lack of access to high-quality medical care (42%), and viruses or bacteria (40%)—not a surprise—but also such socio-economic factors as personal behavior (40%), high stress (37%), and exposure to air, water, or chemical pollution (35%). And a majority (54%) said that being abused or neglected in childhood is an extremely important risk factor for ill health later in life.

Robert J. Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, led the poll and recently talked to RWJF Media Director Catherine Arnst about some of the key results. (Both questions and answers were edited for clarity)  

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A Warrior for a Healthier, More Equitable America

Feb 27, 2015, 4:23 PM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Andy Hyman / RWJF Andrew D. Hyman, JD

Andy Hyman was a warrior for a healthier, more equitable America.

He dedicated his life and career to social justice and progress for the most vulnerable people among us. As a government official, advocate, and philanthropic leader, Andy was tenacious in his pursuit of a singular vision: that everyone in America would have the coverage necessary to access high quality health care—physical, behavioral, or both.

And what incredible success he had.

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The Secret to Successful Health Partnerships

Feb 26, 2015, 10:58 AM, Posted by Lawrence Prybil, Paul Jarris, Rich Umbdenstock, Robert Pestronk

raising hands graphic

Across the country, there is growing awareness that restraining the increase in health costs and improving the health outcomes will require approaches that address the full array of factors that affect health. Greater attention and resources must be devoted to promoting a safer environment, healthy lifestyles, prevention of illnesses and injuries, and early detection and treatment of health problems, as well as dealing with the underlying determinants of health. Improving access to outpatient and inpatient medical services and the quality of those services, while vitally important, are not enough.

To effectively design, implement, and sustain a comprehensive approach to promoting the overall health of communities, we need meaningful collaboration among healthcare delivery organizations, governmental public health departments, and other community stakeholders. Unfortunately, while there is evidence of some increase in recent years, decades of limited communications, lack of mutual understanding, and incongruent goals have inhibited collaboration among these groups across the country. The University of Kentucky College of Public Health recently conducted a study intended to accelerate change, encourage collaboration, and contribute to building a Culture of Health in America. The purpose of the study is to identify successful partnerships involving hospitals, public health departments, and other stakeholders in improving the health of communities they serve and elevate key lessons learned.

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Setting Our Sights on Healthy Media Consumption

Feb 23, 2015, 4:27 PM, Posted by Alonzo L. Plough

Alonzo Plough, PhD, MPH, is vice president, Research-Evaluation-Learning and chief science officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Read more from his series.

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Childhood obesity is a tremendous threat to the current and future health of our young people. Compared with their healthy-weight peers, obese children face a higher risk for serious health problems, miss more school, have greater psychological stress, and are more likely to become obese as adults. If we don’t do something to reverse this epidemic, the nation’s current generation could be the first in history to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation. This is why RWJF recently pledged $500 million over the next 10 years to support strategies aimed at helping all children in the United States grow up at a healthy weight. This new funding increases our investment in preventing childhood obesity to more than $1 billion—the largest commitment we have ever made on a single issue.

We are in it for the long haul, and we have already seen signs of progress. Research published last year showed obesity prevalence among 2 to 5 years old dropped by approximately 40 percent in eight years. But nearly one-third of children and adolescents in the U.S. are still obese or overweight, and more than 25 million are at risk for high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes because of their weight.

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A Portrait of Women with Health Insurance

Feb 19, 2015, 2:21 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

2015 Health Care Coverage Billboard Woman Image

For the second year running, more women than men have signed up for coverage in health insurance marketplaces during open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, enrollment ran 56 percent female, 44 percent male, during last year’s open enrollment season; preliminary data from this year shows enrollment at 55 percent female, 45 percent male—a 10 percentage point difference.

What gives? An HHS spokeswoman says the department can’t explain most of the differential. Females make up about 51 percent of the U.S. population, but there is no real evidence that, prior to ACA implementation, they were disproportionately more likely to be uninsured than men—and in fact, some evidence indicates that they were less likely to be uninsured than males.

What is clear that many women were highly motivated to obtain coverage under the health reform law—most likely because they want it, and need it.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Banding Together to Fight for Health Care Value

Feb 13, 2015, 5:06 PM, Posted by Anne Weiss

L1032033_JHW Key health care stakeholders have joined forces to work toward improved quality of health care available to the rural, low-income population of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, Calif. (AF4Q)

Sometimes it feels like we take one step forward, two steps back when it comes to making sure that we are getting the best quality health care for the tremendous amount our society invests in it. Maybe sometimes it’s one step forward, three steps back.

But then I think about Aligning Forces for Quality—RWJF’s signature initiative to lift the quality and equality of care in 16 regions around the country—and my hope returns. While progress is slow, it is still progress.

More than 10 years ago, RWJF’s leadership suggested to me that we change course in our health care quality improvement strategy. Instead of testing single interventions in widely scattered sites, they asked, why not focus on a limited number of target communities where we could go deep with multiple approaches? We knew health care is essentially local, though shaped by state and federal policy.

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A New Approach to Eliminating Health Disparities

Feb 10, 2015, 2:13 PM, Posted by Dwayne Proctor

Spokane Adverse Childhood Experiences Last year, Spokane County received the Foundation's Culture of Health Prize for improving community health by addressing the critical link between poverty, education, and poor health. Here, children play at St. Anne's Center in Spokane, where teachers are trained to catch and address early warning signs that may indicate future problems in school.

I, like many others, have made a commitment to living healthier this year. I am resolved to find and eat a new fruit and vegetable each month, decrease my consumption of meat to a few times a week, and drink at least a half-gallon of water each day. I also plan to laugh more and spend more time outdoors. My personal goals aside, I also find myself more hopeful than at the start of many past years about the state of health in our nation as a whole.

  • More Americans than ever before have access to the health care they need because of the Affordable Care Act;
  • States throughout the nation are making significant progress in helping kids achieve a healthy weight;
  • The disparities gap between black and white Americans’ life expectancies is narrowing.

These bright spots indicate that America is heading down the road to better health—but they only begin to address the challenges many Americans continue to face in accessing good health. As highlighted in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, significant gaps and unmet needs remain.

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We Must All Play a Role in Ending Childhood Obesity

Feb 5, 2015, 1:00 PM, Posted by Sen. Bill Frist, MD

A mother walking with her daughters on sidewalk

We all want our kids and grandkids to grow up happier and healthier than we did. Instead, today’s children are the first generation of young Americans to face the prospect of living their entire lives in poorer health and dying younger than previous generations.

The reason is no mystery. Too many of our children – one in three, according to studies – are overweight. We are allowing, and in some ways encouraging, our kids to consume more calories, more sugar, more fat, more sodium. At the same time we’re enabling a more sedentary lifestyle. Running, jumping, skipping, dancing, biking – today’s children simply don’t move as much as they once did, making it that much harder to keep off the pounds.

The childhood obesity epidemic is having a devastating affect on too many families. Obese and overweight children are sick more often. They too often endure prejudice and bullying at school, leaving them embarrassed and depressed. They miss more school. When they grow up, they have more difficulty leading productive work lives. And they are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses directly linked to obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease. 

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When It Comes to What Consumers Value in Health Care, One Size Does Not Fit All

Feb 5, 2015, 9:00 AM, Posted by Tara Oakman

Pioneering the Use of Personal Health Data - Banner

My husband and I recently bought our first house in Princeton, N.J. We had looked at several houses, all within a similar price range. But price wasn’t the only factor, and simply having a roof over our heads wasn’t our only goal. We wanted a place that allowed us to walk to town and had a yard for the kids to play in, as well as a garage and storage space. We didn’t care so much about some things that might be important to other people, such as the size of the bedrooms or any particular architectural style. Figuring out what was most important to us, what would be a high-value house for us—the people who would be living in the house—was just part of the process.

Just as people have widely varying preferences when it comes to a home purchase, they also have very different preferences and priorities when it comes to their health care. For example, I might prefer a primary care doctor who has weekend and evening hours, whereas my mom might prefer one who has a reputation for spending more time with patients. At least right now, Mom and I just care about different things.

What does “value” in health care mean to consumers generally—and not just consumers overall, but consumers of many different backgrounds and perspectives? What matters to people when they are choosing their health plan, which doctor to go to, or whether to go to a retail clinic, and what might make for a high-value experience in different health care settings? It’s hard to know, because today value is typically measured more from the perspective of payers and providers.

So that is why, this week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AcademyHealth, released a call for proposals to better understand what factors are most important to consumers when they make health care decisions.  

In building a Culture of Health, we realize “value” won’t mean the same thing for everyone, any more than it does when you’re buying a house. But unlike in home buying, we don’t have many tools and supports in place to help people make their own high value decisions. In health care, we don’t have enough information about what people care most about. This is what we want to find out.