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From Trauma to TED: Boston Marathon Survivor Adrianne Haslet-Davis on Recovery, Care, and Collaboration

Apr 21, 2014, 12:30 AM, Posted by Shaheen Mamawala

Adrianne Haslet-Davis Adrianne Haslet-Davis (photo by James Duncan Davidson)

Last month, I attended my first TED conference in Vancouver, Canada. Though inspiring, it was also overwhelming—in a sea of over 1200 guests, it can often be challenging to make meaningful personal connections. However, when I saw Adrianne Haslet-Davis step onto the stage and dance a beautiful rumba while wearing her prosthetic leg, I knew she was someone I wanted to meet.

While Adrianne and I had just a quick exchange of hellos in person at TED, I was further inspired by the message she wrote when she stopped by our RWJF Culture of Health Café. There she offered her own vision of a Culture of Health, framed within her personal experiences as a victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Adrianne graciously offered to expand on her personal Culture of Health vision in a brief interview with me.

Shaheen: You recently returned from TED2014 in Vancouver, where you gave a powerful dance performance. Tell us about that experience.

Adrianne: It was no question at all where I wanted to dance [publicly] again for the first time.  It was important for me to do it at TED because I so strongly believe in TED’s message of getting people to think outside the box about issues that maybe we don’t know we’re interested in. I think it’s really eye-opening in that way.

I went into the project with Hugh Herr, director of the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab, who came to me and said “Adrianne, I think we can make this [performance] happen but I’m not going to guarantee it. Are you in?” I said yes because it really helped me have a goal.

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Reflections on TED2014: Ideas Worth Spreading … FASTER!

Apr 18, 2014, 2:11 PM, Posted by Lori Melichar

Pattie Maes, MIT Media Laboratory, speaking at TED2014 Pattie Maes, MIT Media Laboratory, speaking at TED2014

When people find out I work for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, they often want to tell me their idea for solving the problems that keep Americans from being as healthy as they can be. It's one of the pleasures of my job. Some of these ideas are indeed pioneering,  with the potential for breakthrough change.  All of them are helpful in shaping my vision of a path to achieving a Culture of Health.

I heard a lot of ideas last month while representing RWJF at TED2014. If you aren’t familiar, TED is an organization dedicated to spreading ideas through inspiring talks and conversations. Their annual conference is a great place to meet leaders from a variety of disciplines, from science and technology to business and the arts, and it was a privilege to attend.

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We Do Better When We Do for Others

Apr 14, 2014, 3:15 AM, Posted by Jody L. Struve

Jody’s son mashing it up at MakerFaire NYC Jody’s son mashing it up at MakerFaire NYC

This morning, I figured out how to save the planet. That’s the power of Twitter, friends. (Or that’s the power of Twitter when you’re bleary-eyed at 5:10 a.m., and meant to hit the Weather app to find out if your kids’ school might close, but instead you see a tweet that the United Nations has concluded global warming is indeed our fault, next to a tweet about food trucks, next to one about ...)

Twitter allows you to take in lots of disparate information at odd hours, and that can result in ... odd ideas.

In a flash, I saw an opportunity to solve two problems with one solution—a mash-up, if you will. By 5:15 a.m., still half asleep, looking at my smartphone, it became clear to me that the way to save the planet was to create “energy parks” that generate power through peoples’ physical activity, addressing obesity and climate change in one fell swoop.

Stay with me here.

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"It's Good to Know the Red Cross is There"

Apr 11, 2014, 5:06 PM, Posted by Jeff Meade

Northern New Jersey American Red Cross volunteers Hart Coven and Bob Hassmiller Northern New Jersey American Red Cross volunteers Hart Coven and Bob Hassmiller (photo by Jeff Meade)

The emergency response vehicle (ERV) fielded by the American Red Cross of Northern New Jersey is all gleaming white with shining chrome, flashing lights, diesel engine chugging away, the distinctive Red Cross logo emblazoned on its sides, larger than life.

The truck itself is about the size of a small delivery van, but even with a pair of comfortable padded seats, the inside looks roomy. But don't be fooled. Each of the red plastic insulated crates stacked like Lego bricks up toward the front of the truck can contain 50 hot meals. That’s a lot of mac and cheese. Up to 350 meals in all on a really busy night. There's enough coffee and juice to revive and hydrate exhausted firefighters for hours. Volunteers can give out a good many compact little "comfort kits," containing toiletries and other day-to-day necessities.

And of course, there are blankets—the big, warm white ones, also bearing the Red Cross symbol. The kind you see on local TV news, draped around the shoulders of folks driven from their  apartment complex by an overnight multi-alarm blaze.

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Why Empathy is Essential to a Culture of Health

Apr 11, 2014, 11:34 AM, Posted by Tara Oakman

Peace activist Zak Ebrahim speaks at TED 2014

Everyone knows it is hard to get 2-year-olds to do anything on a schedule. They want to do everything their way, on their own time. As you can imagine, trying to get my twins out the door each morning—let alone take a bath or eat a meal, can be quite a challenge. After trying a number of different parenting methods, I have discovered that the one way I can usually motivate them is to talk about feelings, and get them to recognize how their actions affect their sibling. Just yesterday, the only way I could get my son out of the bath was by telling him that his sister was sad and lonely waiting for him. And then, and only then, did he move.

Building empathy has been a critical strategy in my household of late—not only because it helps motivate them, but also because it is an important part of their social development. Lately I have been thinking about empathy on a larger scale, beyond my household, and how critical it is to building a Culture of Health.

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Making a Collective Impact in the Lives of Young Men of Color

Apr 2, 2014, 9:15 AM, Posted by Maisha Simmons

Hispanic, Iraqi and African American male students

On a bone-chilling cold day in Chicago last fall, I went on a site visit for a pending grantee. The grantee's office was warm and cozy, tucked away in a neighborhood with a bustling corridor of small businesses that sold a variety of ethnic foods and baked goods. The office walls told the stories of the neighborhood through brightly colored murals depicting loving families and happy children, on a backdrop of a beautiful Chicago landscape.

During this site visit I met a young man named Jose who captivated the room with his story. Jose loved art, even though his school had no art program. Art was the one way that he could express his love, fear, joy and pain. The art poured out of him—on his notebooks and books, and eventually on the walls and fences of his community. Luckily, a relative recognized Jose’s talent and found a community art program where he could learn his craft and express himself on canvases and murals instead of on buildings and public property.

A few months later, Jose was called into his principal’s office and threatened with suspension. Teachers and staff suspected that Jose was to blame for recent vandalism on school property. Shocked and nervous, Jose tried to explain that his art program had given him an outlet and that he no longer drew on desks or walls. But he had no proof and was suspended.

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Big East Leads Going into March Madness

Mar 26, 2014, 8:57 AM, Posted by Katherine Hempstead

Because every state has approached health reform differently, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides us with a unique opportunity to observe federalism in action. We now have 51 unique environments in which to assess the implementation of health reform.

Given the magnitude of the policy intervention, this variation provokes great interest in understanding the state’s role in health reform, and in disentangling policy and governance factors from other state characteristics.

A new report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute looks at Marketplace enrollment and state exchange characteristics, and shows that states that created their own exchange have enrolled a higher percent of their eligible population in Marketplace plans than states that had the federal government partly or completely manage their exchange.

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ACOG Issues New Guidelines to Curb Overuse of C-Sections

Feb 27, 2014, 5:27 PM, Posted by Tara Oakman

Tara Oakman Tara Oakman

While I knew that having children would turn my world upside down, I assumed that this transition would be more metaphorical than literal. Ha! Moments before I was discharged from a Maryland hospital a few days after my twins were delivered by c-section, the ground shook violently. My husband had just left the hospital room to get the car, so I was alone with two newborns and a painful surgical wound. All I could think was ... “This is an earthquake! I have two babies. And I can’t move!

One of the scariest parts of the experience was that I couldn’t respond to my maternal instinct to quickly pick up and protect my babies because I had just had major abdominal surgery. Granted, managing in an earthquake is not a common part of recovery from a C-section, but there can be many other dangerous complications that occur more frequently, such as infection, emergency hysterectomy or heavy blood loss. It can also lead to greater difficulty with breastfeeding. C-sections are also very costly, even if there are no major complications. They are much more expensive than vaginal delivery.

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Simple, Small Changes Can Lead to Healthier Food Choices

Jan 21, 2014, 11:20 AM, Posted by Deborah Bae

traffic light graphic border

At this time of year, many of us find ourselves trying hard to stick to that New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. Here is some good news: simple changes in our environment can have meaningful, sustained effects on our ability to make healthy food choices.

Committing to a healthier diet and trying to lose weight is hard, and many people believe they can do it as long as they have the right motivation and attitude. We’ll say things like, “I’m going to eat better” or “I’m going to eat fewer unhealthy foods.” But that commitment can be tough when people face a variety of unhealthy choices and just a few healthy ones. Or when it’s hard to tell which is which.

Researcher and physician Anne Thorndike and her colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital tested a novel idea: if all healthy food and drinks sold in the hospital cafeteria were labeled green, and all unhealthy items had red labels, would people make healthier choices?

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And the Winner is … Streetlights, for Applying Big Data to Community Health

Jan 15, 2014, 12:41 PM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Cropped Streetlight project

Big data, the buzzword of choice these days in information technology, holds the promise of transforming health care as programmers and policy-makers figure out how to mine trillions of ones and zeros for information about the best (and worst) health practices, disease and lifestyle trends, interconnections, and insights. The problem is, where to start? To jump start the process, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation joined in a Knight News Challenge: Health and issued its own call to developers to come up with innovative ways to combine public health and health care data, with a $50,000 prize to the best idea.

The results are in. When the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the winners of its News Challenge for ideas focused on unlocking the power of health data on January 15—you can see the list here—we also announced the winner of our companion prize for the best entries who combined public health data with data from health care to improve the health of communities. Our first place winner is the Streetlights Project from Chicago.

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