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Simple, Small Changes Can Lead to Healthier Food Choices

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

Culture of Health Blog Post Framed Traffic Light

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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Knight Foundation News Challenge: Looking for a Few Great Data-Leveraging Ideas

Sep 9, 2013, 11:59 AM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

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On August 19, we announced a new $100,000 prize as part of the Knight Foundation’s latest News Challenge, which seeks innovative ideas to harness information and data for the health of communities. The RWJF award is for those entrants who combine public health data with other types of population data to improve the health of communities. The Knight Foundation has committed $2 million to the contest as well.

The entries phase opened this week, and, as of this writing, 34 entries have already been submitted! We asked Paul Tarini, senior program officer for the Pioneer Portfolio, and Anne Weiss, senior program officer and team director of the Quality/Equality team, to reflect on the 105 ideas shared during the initial inspiration phase:

Paul commented:

“I liked the idea about linking health and housing data to improve the provision of social services, health services and housing support to people who are homeless. I also liked the vision for CHEER from Miami-Dade County, which is trying to link kids’ education and health data to improve outcomes for children and inform policy. Similarly comes an idea from Virginia to link datasets from the Health Department on birth issues, early childhood health conditions, and maternal health conditions to social service data and educational outcomes.

My question to everyone who submitted ideas during the inspiration phase: Can you actually get the data you’re interested in using? And, how will you make the data actionable?”

Anne adds:

“I have to say that a lot of what I saw wasn’t exactly what I expected. I saw apps and technology that used ONE source of data. There were a number that did combine data, but I couldn’t get a very specific sense of what data they’d combined and how it would be used.

The ones that excited me, if I read them right, were the ones about combining data on grocery store purchasing with primary care data, as well as the idea related to Trenton public transit.These seemed to me to be fresh, to address social determinants of health, and to leverage the power of different types of data. What I especially liked about these is that they have some interested, committed partners at the table who want the project to succeed, and they’ve got at least an early notion of specifics—what they will do and how they’ll do it.”

Be sure to keep an eye on the Knight News Challenge page to see the ideas being submitted—and if YOU have a bright idea you’d like to submit, be sure to do it soon. The challenge closes on Sept. 17; that’s just 11 days away!

Move Over, Richard Kiley. Here’s Why We Want to Combine Public Health Data with Health Care Data

Aug 19, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Visualizations of health data at Calit2

We’re announcing today a new $100,000 prize as part of the Knight Foundation’s latest News Challenge, which seeks innovative ideas to harness information and data for the health of communities. The RWJF award is for those entrants who combine public health data with data from health care to improve the health of communities. The Knight Foundation itself has committed $2 million to the contest, as well.

The reason we want to combine public health data with health care data is because of the potential the combined data has to drive real improvements and innovation. When we were discussing this, one of my colleagues broke out with “To dream the impossible dream.” While he couldn’t match Kiley’s sonorous baritone, he did capture the ambition in the song.

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Flipping the Doctor’s Office

Jul 18, 2013, 10:42 AM, Posted by Thomas Goetz

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Consider the doctor’s office: the sanctum of care in American medicine, where a patient enters with a need—a question, or an ailment, or a concern—and leaves with an answer, a diagnosis, or a treatment. That room, with its emblematic atmosphere of exam table and tiny sink and bottles of antiseptic, is in many ways the engine of our health care system, the locus of all our collective knowledge and all our collective resources. It’s where health care happens.

But in a less sentimental light, the doctor’s office doesn’t seem so exalted. Yes, it remains the essential hub for clinical care. But what occurs in that room isn’t exactly ideal, or state-of-the-art. The doctor-patient encounter is fraught with tension, asymmetrical information, and flat-out incomprehension. It is a high-cost, high-resource encounter with surprisingly limited value and limited returns. It is too cursory to be exhaustive (the infamous fifteen-minute median office visit), too infrequent to create an honest relationship (one or two times a year visits at best), and too anonymous to be personal (the average primary care doc has more than 2,300 patients).

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A Big Week for Big Health Data

Jun 5, 2013, 4:30 PM, Posted by Beth Toner

Health Datapalooza Graphic

It’s been a great week to be a self-proclaimed “health data geek.” Here at the Foundation, we announced the launching of the Health Data Exploration Project at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (housed at the University of California-San Diego). The project will explore how to bring individuals and companies who collect day-to-day health data (via smart phones and other tools) together with health researchers to uncover insights into personal and population health. You can read more about this project on RWJF’s Pioneering Ideas.

We also announced the $120,000 RWJF Hospital Price Transparency Challenge, which asks applicants to create data visualizations and applications to help people compare what different hospitals charge.

Finally, a number of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation staff came together at the fourth Health Datapalooza—the annual event put together by the Health Data Consortium, of which RWJF is a founding sponsor. The conference is a forum that features the newest and most innovative and effective uses of health data by companies, startups, academics, government agencies and individuals. Want to learn more about what went on there? Feel free to read our “Dispatches From Datapalooza,” starting here.

Want to learn more about health data?