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Author Archives: Christine Nieves

Exploring Citizen Science

Jul 31, 2014, 11:34 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF Christine Nieves, program associate

I remember the distinct feeling of learning about Foldit. It was a mixture of awe and hope for the potential breakthrough contributions a citizen can make towards science (without needing a PhD!). Foldit is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. In 2011, Foldit users decoded an AIDS protein that had been a mystery to researchers for 15 years. The gamers accomplished it in 3 weeks. When I learned this, it suddenly hit me; if we, society, systematically harness the curiosity of citizens, we could do so much!

This is the spirit behind our recent exploration to learn more about how citizen scientists are addressing some of the most pressing problems in health and health care.

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Personal Health Data Goes to the Doctor

Jul 9, 2014, 9:15 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves, Steve Downs

Open mHealth Logo

Since the advent of the stethoscope, information-gathering technology has been helping doctors and other medical professionals improve patient health. Over the past decade, RWJF has funded a series of projects that suggest helping patients track and share data with their clinicians can strengthen the patient-clinician partnership and improve health outcomes. It makes sense that giving clinicians access to patient-tracked health data can improve the health of individuals and communities. As simple as the concept may sound, though, unlocking personal health data for clinical purposes has proven quite challenging. 

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Princeton Students Study Health Care in Urban New Jersey

Dec 9, 2013, 12:30 PM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen Princeton students Princeton students at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. From left to right: Emma Tucher, Lawrence Chang, Colleen O'Gorman, Gwen Lee, Richard Lu, Daniel Kim, Mina Henaen, Azza Cohe, Justin Ziegler, Arfan Sunny and Jordan Shivers. Photo by Richard Lu.

Recently, I heard through our grantee at Princeton University that a group of students was organizing a weeklong trip to meet with people working to improve health care in urban New Jersey. The students asked to meet with program staff at the Foundation to get recommendations regarding people to meet and key questions to ask, and we obliged. After their trip, we wanted to hear how things had gone, so I reached out via email. I found their curiosity energizing, and hope you do, too.

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#LATISM, a Culture of Health Experiment

Sep 26, 2013, 8:19 PM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Group shot with Christine Nieves

Latinos in Tech and Social Media, better known as LATISM, is a movement that I had heard about, but not yet experienced. That all changed on Sept. 21 and 22, when I joined hundreds and hundreds of Latinos from around the nation at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan for the 5th annual LATISM conference. The focus: business, health, tech, education and advocacy.

For me, it all started six months ago. Andres Henriquez from the National Science Foundation, Rob Torres from the Gates Foundation, and I had a fortuitous encounter in Washington, D.C., as members of the Aprendiendo Juntos "Learning Together" Council. Aprendiendo Juntos Council is a multi-sector group of researchers, practitioners, and policy experts who seek to identify new models and practical strategies to improve educational outcomes for Hispanic-Latino families through the wise deployment of digital technologies. After sharing our concern for underrepresentation of high-quality Latino candidates for philanthropic funding in our respective organizations, we concluded that we wanted to demystify philanthropy. So we embarked on an experiment. What if we could talk about our trajectory–from hardship to philanthropy–with an audience of digital movers and shakers?

And that’s what we did over the September weekend. It was an engaging conversation with Latinos–working in technology, business, education and advocacy–who are ultimately committed to making their communities healthier and stronger. This conversation is just the beginning, and a great way to test my pet-hypothesis: That we will find the opportunity to share a Culture of Health in the places we least expect to find it.

What do you think? Please share your comments and ideas with me here and via Twitter @nieveschristine.

Engaging Top College Students in Transforming Health and Health Care

Jul 25, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF

College students have been the visionaries behind a number of game-changing innovations in recent years, from Facebook to RWJF grantee Health Leads (if you aren’t familiar with Health Leads, I highly recommend you check out their model). So if the next big idea that completely transforms health and health care in this country comes from someone under the age of 22, we here at Pioneer won’t be surprised.

And we’re doing our part to speed things along. I’m thrilled to share that we recently awarded a grant to Princeton University’s Keller Center, whose mission is to educate leaders for a technology-driven society. The Center will use this funding to offer courses on health care entrepreneurship, as well as to partner with Woodrow Wilson School's Center for Health and Wellbeing on a Global Health Policy Scholars program.

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User-Centric Innovation

Jul 10, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF Program Associate Christine Nieves

Determined to increase my productivity and keep my desk free from clutter, I recently read an excellent book that several friends recommended to me called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. We at Pioneer talk quite a bit about what it takes to change behavior – what kinds of innovations can we support that will help more people embrace healthy habits? Implementing this book’s recommendations reminded me just how stressful change can be – even change that’s designed to reduce stress! And it got me thinking about how important it is to base any innovation on a real understanding of the people it effects.

I recently spent the day at the MedStar Institute for Innovation -– at Pioneer, we’re always interested in learning more about other units within large organizations that are focused on innovation (and we love to play host, too). Anyway, the folks at MedStar spoke quite a bit about human factors engineering. If you aren’t familiar (I wasn’t), human factors engineering is about accepting the fact that humans will inevitably make mistakes, and designing environments and tools that take that inevitability into account, so that the impact of mistakes is significantly decreased. Human factors engineering often goes hand-in-hand with extensive usability testing.

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Dispatches from Datapalooza: Day 1 Highlights

Jun 4, 2013, 10:00 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF

From: Christine Nieves

To: Paul Tarini, Beth Toner and Thomas Goetz

Date: June 4, 2013

Why didn't you warn me that this conference is so enormous? Wow! As a first-time attendee, it is hard to believe that Health Datapalooza started just four years ago with 40 or so participants in one room. On Monday, more than 2,000 people gathered under one roof to advocate for the same cause, and I am enjoying learning from so many of them.

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Dispatches from Datapalooza: Bringing My 'A' Game

May 31, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF

From: Christine Nieves

To: Paul Tarini, Beth Toner and Thomas Goetz

Date: May 31, 2013

This is my first time attending Health Datapalooza, and I am intrigued. I am fascinated by the fact that there will be a reception at the National Zoo on Sunday evening and a 7 a.m. run to kick us off Tuesday morning. It's not just any run, though—it will be led by Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s what I call intense!

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Heritage Open mHealth Challenge: Searching for a Sum Greater Than Its Parts

Mar 4, 2013, 3:14 PM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves Christine Nieves

“Smart” phones are rapidly becoming ubiquitous; almost half of all American adults own one. Every one of those phones has the potential to be a health companion for its owner, providing reminders about pills to take or tips about healthier foods to eat. Phones can also collect valuable health data—such as the quality of the air we breathe or the number of steps we walk. For people with a chronic disease such as diabetes, a smart phone can track the kinds of meals that spike their blood sugar or the side effects of their medications; it can even relay that information back to a doctor, who can then help patients better manage their health.

To date, the major tool for harnessing the power of mobile technology has been the app. Just like there are apps for weather, news, or restaurant reviews, there are apps for health. They can do amazing things, from measuring and monitoring, to imaging and predicting. But, there aren’t just a handful of them—there are thousands! And, that’s where the Heritage Open mHealth Challenge comes in.

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40 Years of RWJF + 10 Force Multipliers = Young Leaders Transforming the Future

Nov 19, 2012, 9:45 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF Christine E. Nieves Rodriguez

This December marks my first year with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and with the Pioneer Portfolio. Throughout the year, I’ve been amazed by the team’s connection to health and health care innovation, and have been humbled to be part of RWJF as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

As part of its anniversary celebration, RWJF announced its inaugural Young Leader Awards. I was excited that RWJF chose to honor 10 leaders, 40 and under, who offer promise for leading the way to improved health and health care. The Foundation recently announced the 10 winners who represent great diversity in the future of health care innovation.

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