Category Archives: Scholars in Health Policy Research

Jul 24 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Stereotype threat, hand hygiene, misbehaving science, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

Anxiety caused by “stereotype threat” could help explain health disparities that persist across race, suggests research co-authored by Cleopatra Abdou, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna. News Medical covers the study, describing it as the first of its kind to empirically test, in the context of health sciences, the impact of the “threat of being judged by or confirming a negative stereotype about a group you belong to.” Abdou’s research offers a possible explanation for ethnic and socioeconomic differences in morbidity and mortality between Black and White women because, as Abdou says, the research goes beyond nature vs. nurture, “bringing situation and identity into the equation.” For example, in the study, Black women with a strong connection to their race had the highest anxiety levels when in waiting rooms filled with posters that displayed negative health-related racial stereotypes dealing with such topics as unplanned pregnancy and AIDS.

Having health insurance improves access to medical care for pregnant, low-income women, and results in long-term health benefits for their babies, according to a study by RWJF Scholar in Health Policy Research Sarah Miller, PhD, and RWJF Health & Society Scholar Laura Wherry, PhD, that was reported by Vox. Miller and Wherry found the expansion of Medicaid in the 1980s made prenatal care much more accessible to low-income women, many of whom would otherwise have been without insurance. The result was improvements in obesity, preventable hospitalizations, and preventable, chronic disease-related hospitalizations among children. 

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Jul 17 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Gun violence, suicide, ‘structural’ versus ‘cultural’ competency, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

An NPR story quotes RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus Andrew Papachristos, PhD, citing his extensive research on gun violence. Papachristos criticizes the lack of context in media coverage of violence, noting that incidents such as the series of shootings over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago tend to be treated simply as a long stretch of violent incidents. “Treating Chicagoland violence as merely a tally necessarily dehumanizes its victims, but it also obscures so much of the larger story about that violence. It's data without context.” Not only is the murder rate steadily declining in Chicago, but there is a massive disparity in victims of these crimes: “Eighty-five percent of violence—any shootings—happens among 5 percent of people,” Papachristos says.

In an article about libertarianism and state laws related to guns and other topics, the Economist cites a study about the social costs of gun ownership by RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipients Philip Cook, PhD, and Jens Ludwig, PhD. It finds that “more guns empirically lead to more gun-related violence, largely because legally purchased guns somehow end up in the hands of criminals via theft,” gun shows, and online sales, which are largely unregulated. To address these issues, Cook and Ludwig suggest making it costlier to buy guns in high-crime areas, and improving the records used to screen gun buyers by including more information on possible mental-health problems, among other proposals. (Free registration required to view article.)

A study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus Alexander Tsai, PhD, MD, finds that men who are more socially connected are half as likely to commit suicide as men considered loners, NBC News reports. The study looks at data on nearly 35,000 men, ages 40 to 75, and finds that those who are more isolated are at greater risk, even if they are not mentally ill. “Public health practitioners think about things like cardiovascular disease as warranting public health attention,” says Tsai, suggesting that suicide may also need attention.

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Jul 10 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Healthcare.gov, depression and mortality, stress among nurses, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

Young adult users of Healthcare.gov, the health insurance marketplace established under the Affordable Care Act, recommend that the site offer better explanations of terminology, more clarity about the benefits various plans offer, and checkboxes and other features that make it easier to compare plans. Those are among the findings of a study conducted by RWJF Clinical Scholar Charlene Wong, MD, along with alumni David Asch, MD, MBA, and Raina Merchant, MD, that looked at the experiences of young adults who used the website. The scholars write about their findings in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Wong told the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics blog that these users “may not know what insurance terms mean but they have a lot of expertise and insights about maximizing the usability of the digital platforms that have always been such an integral part of their lives.”

Major depression (also known as “clinical depression”) is associated with an elevated risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to research covered by Kansas City InfoZine. The study, co-authored by Patrick Krueger, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus, also found that the relationship between depression and early non-suicide mortality is independent of such factors as smoking, exercise, body mass, education, income, and employment status. The authors say the findings indicate that the relationship between depression and mortality is not due solely to the interplay between depression and health-compromising risk factors.

Expanding scope of practice for advanced practice nurses and implementing better management practices could alleviate some stress factors for nurses and improve patient care, Matthew McHugh, PhD, JD, MPH, FAAN, tells Healthline News. For example, in some medical facilities, nurses are empowered to decide if a patient’s urinary catheter should be removed without consulting a doctor, thus preventing delays in care. “Lots of things that don’t require policy change” can have an important impact on patient outcomes and nurses’ job satisfaction, said McHugh, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars alumnus.

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Jul 2 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Menopause and heart disease, nurses and health care finance, and more

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples: 

Changes in hormone levels during early menopause could be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, finds a new study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Rebecca Thurston, PhD. Health Canal covers the study, describing it as a first-of-its-kind evaluation because it used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to assess the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through the blood, rather than relying on conventional blood tests. Thurston’s study was published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

For Alice Goffman, PhD, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna, an undergraduate assignment turned into a six-year study of a low-income Philadelphia neighborhood in which, she concluded, “the young men in this community feel hunted.” In the resulting book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, Goffman says that a “climate of fear and suspicion pervades everyday life” in the community. The New York Times Sunday Book Review calls Goffman’s work “riveting” and her ability to understand her subjects “astonishing.”

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has received a $13.6 million grant from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to integrate and coordinate physical, behavioral, and social-health needs for people enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, reports the Northern Colorado Business Report. The story quotes Susan Birch, MBS, BSN, RN, executive director of the department: “This grant allows Colorado to coordinate our members' care, while achieving greater value and health outcomes for our citizens who are on both Medicare and Medicaid.” Birch is an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna.

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Jun 23 2014
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RWJF Milestones, June 2014

The following are among the many honors received recently by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, grantees and alumni:

Emery Brown, MD, PhD, an alumnus of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient James Perrin, PhD, is the new president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He took office on January 1, 2014, beginning a one-year term.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has named Deborah E. Trautman, PhD, RN, as its new chief executive officer, effective June 16. Trautman, an RWJF Health Policy Fellows program alumna, currently serves as executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Transformation at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The American College of Physicians (ACP), the nation’s largest medical specialty organization, has voted Wayne Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, its president-elect. Riley is a former RWJF senior health policy associate.

Kenneth B. Chance, Sr., D.D.S. has been appointed dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and will begin his duties on July 1, 2014. He is an alumnus of the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program, and served on its national advisory committee. His is a current member of the national advisory committee of the RWJF Summer Medical and Dental Education Program.

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Jun 19 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Debt and health, tax exemption controversy, peer influence on adolescent smokers, and more

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

In the context of the Obama administration’s efforts to ease student loan debt, TIME reports on a study by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Elizabeth Sweet, PhD, that explores the toll debt takes on the borrower’s physical health. Past studies have focused on mental health issues, TIME writes, but Sweet’s research links debt not just to mental health, but also to high blood pressure and general health problems. Sweet says the problem has long-term implications. “These health issues are a warning for more health problems down the road,” she says, “so we have to think about this as a long-term phenomenon.” Forbes also highlights her research.

A Medscape story about a study that shows a direct correlation between vaccinating health care personnel against influenza and reducing cases of flu in the community quotes Mary Lou Manning, PhD, RN, CPNP, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna. “We now actually have evidence indicating that higher health care worker vaccination rates in hospitals are having a community effect; they’re actually resulting in lower rates of influenza in the community. That’s remarkably exciting,” says Manning, who is president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. The article is available here (free login required).

Modern Healthcare reports on federal efforts to address concerns about tax exemption for certain nonprofit hospitals, citing research by Gary Young, JD, PhD, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. In order to obtain tax-exempt status, the Affordable Care Act requires nonprofit hospitals to track and report the charity care and community benefits they provide. Young found wide variation in the contributions of nonprofit hospitals. “The current standards and approach to tax exemption for hospitals is raising concerns about a lack of accountability for hospitals,” he says, and creating problems because “hospitals don’t really know what’s expected of them.” The Internal Revenue Service has proposed a rule to address the issue. (Free registration is required to view the article.)

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Jun 12 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Alzheimer’s disease, violence against women, drug marketing, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

Jason Karlawish, MD, participated in the design of new research that offers “an opportunity to study the future of the way we’re going to think about, talk about and live with the risks of Alzheimer’s disease,” he tells the Associated Press. The study is aimed at testing an experimental drug to see if it can protect seniors who are healthy but whose brains “harbor silent signs” of risk, such as a sticky build-up of proteins that can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s. Karlawish is an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient. Read more about his work on Alzheimer’s disease here and here.

The work of RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumni Ted Gayer, PhD, and Michael Greenstone, PhD, is featured in an Economist article about incorporating into federal cost-benefit analyses the global benefits of regulation to reduce carbon emissions, rather than benefits that accrue only to the United States. Agencies conduct such analyses before promulgating regulations to test whether the estimated benefits of a regulation exceed the estimated costs. Typically, estimated benefits include only those that accrue to the United States, but because global warming reaches far beyond U.S. borders, the Obama Administration’s calculations include global benefits. Greenstone was also recently cited in the New York Times.

Chris Uggen, PhD, an RWJF Investigator Award recipient, writes about the decline in the incidence of sexual violence and intimate partner violence against women since 1993 in a Pacific Standard article. Rates of sexual violence and intimate partner violence decreased from almost 10 per 1,000 in 1994 to 3.2 per 1,000 in 2012, Uggen writes. While those numbers are encouraging, “misogyny and violence against women remain enormous social problems—on our college campuses and in the larger society,” he says. Uggen’s post also appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site.

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Jun 5 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Diversity in the nursing workforce, barriers to breast-feeding, child maltreatment, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

HealthLeaders Media features New Careers in Nursing (NCIN), a joint initiative of RWJF and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) that is increasing diversity in the nursing workforce. “The reason [increasing diversity] is important, of course, is because the population of nursing does not really reflect the population at large,” Polly Bednash, PhD, RN, FAAN, says in the story. “We are now working very aggressively to have the number of people entering the profession look more like the population of the United States.” Bednash is NCIN program director and AACN’s CEO.

In an opinion piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jooyoung Lee, PhD, writes that, in the aftermath of mass shootings, the media and public often focus chiefly on the shooters and forget about the families of those slain. “Instead of fixating on the shooter, or retreating into our own lives, let’s remember and honor those who are left behind. Their lives are often difficult and grinding; their grief is immeasurable. Healing from murder is rarely—if ever—a quick or complete process,” writes Lee, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus. Read more about Lee’s work.

Living in neighborhoods with high rates of violence can affect students’ academic performance, according to a study from RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus from Patrick Sharkey, PhD. The Washington Post reports that the study found that neighborhood violence that occurred within seven days of a test appeared to reduce Black children’s performance on language arts assessments. “When violence is in the air, when the threat of violence is in the air, then it becomes something that spills over to affect not just people who are involved, but everyone who lives in the community,” Sharkey says.

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May 29 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Scandals and reforms at the VA, excluding the elderly from medical studies, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

In a Washington Post opinion piece, RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus Colin Moore, PhD, writes that the budding scandal over patient waiting times at regional Department of Veterans’ Affairs medical centers (VA) could lead to positive reforms, if past troubles at the VA are any guide. “Throughout its history, the VA’s very public failures have shaped its development as profoundly as its successes,” Moore writes. For example, previous failures led to the adoption of the 1996 Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act, which transformed the VA by opening more outpatient clinics and embracing new ways to track and measure health care outcomes. The recent scandal involving falsified reporting on patient waiting times could lead to another cycle of much-needed improvements, Moore writes.

“Doctors are often in the dark” when prescribing medications or procedures to older patients, because the elderly are routinely excluded from medical research, Donna Zulman, MD, MS, co-writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times. Studies have shown that 40 percent of medical research excluded individuals over the age of 65. “Clinicians consequently have to extrapolate findings about diseases as diverse as cancer, heart attacks, and mental illness from studies of younger and often healthier people, potentially putting their older patients at risk.” Older patients should be included in medical studies because age can affect the way a person’s body processes medication and other treatments, according to Zulman, an RWJF Clinical Scholars alumna.

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May 22 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: DNA and depression, health impact of foreclosures, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita significantly increased the number of stillbirths in the Louisiana parishes most affected by the storms, according to a study by RWJF Health & Society Scholar Sammy Zahran, PhD. The research team concluded that 117 to 205 fetal deaths could be attributed to distress caused by the storms, the New York Times blog Well reports. “You can have two mothers with equal characteristics—age, race, and so on,” Zahran said. “[B]ut if one happens to be in a more severely destroyed area, the risk of stillbirth is higher.” The study was also covered by Daily Mail and HealthDay. Read more about Zahran’s work on the Human Capital Blog.

Genetics play an important role in whether stress makes people depressed, and in how quickly they recover, Madison.com reports. RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus Jason Fletcher, PhD, looked at data before and after the 9/11 attacks and correlated it with DNA information reported by survey respondents. He found that 60 percent of participants who carried a particular gene appeared to be at an increased risk for sadness after the attacks. “Overall, the evidence suggests that genetic endowments are an important source of variation in response to a stressful event, in producing some depressive symptoms in young adults,” Fletcher said. MedicalXpress also covered the study.

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