Category Archives: Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College

Apr 18 2013
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Human Capital News Roundup: Conflict resolution strategies, the federal cigarette tax, patient outcomes at Magnet hospitals, 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:

RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Physician Faculty Scholars alumnus Amal Trivedi, MD, MPH, is co-author of a study that finds older patients are routinely prescribed potentially harmful drugs, particularly in the South. Although the specific reasons for the regional differences are unknown, the researchers hypothesize factors like education, socioeconomic status, and access to quality medical care might be to blame, the New York Times Well Blog reports. NPR and Nurse.com are among the other outlets to report on the findings.

Fierce Healthcare reports on a study led by RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar Kelly Doran, MD, that finds frequent use of the emergency department at Veterans Health Administration facilities is often due to “severely compromised life circumstances,” rather than poor access to outpatient health care. The study raises questions about the degree to which increasing access to outpatient care, as the Affordable Care Act aims to do, will reduce emergency department use.

Manish K. Sethi, MD, a health policy associate at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, spoke to the Leaf Chronicle about a program he started at Cameron College Prep Middle School in Nashville to teach teens conflict resolution strategies in an effort to reduce violence in the Nashville area. Read a Q&A with Sethi about the program.

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Jan 9 2013
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Resolve to Strengthen Integrative and Preventive Medical Education in 2013

Jamila Williams, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor and health policy associate at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, and associate program director of Meharry’s preventive medicine residency program. Sangita Chakrabarty, MD, MSPH, FACOEM, is an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, and director of Meharry’s occupational medicine residency program. This post is part of the "Health Care in 2013" series.

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Often we are asked: “Is preventive medicine a real subspecialty?” Why yes, Virginia, it is real. Preventive medicine is a medical specialty that incorporates population-based and clinical approaches to health care, and focuses on keeping individuals healthy through a holistic approach to patient care.  And to that end, integrative medicine is real and here to stay as well.

According to the Institute of Medicine Workshop Summary, Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public: A Summary of the February 2009 Summit, integrative medicine can be described as orienting the health care process to create a seamless engagement by patients and caregivers of the full range of physical, psychological, social, preventive, and therapeutic factors known to be effective and necessary for the achievement of optimal health throughout the life span. (Institute of Medicine, 2009 and Bravewell Collaborative Report, June 2010).

The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” will authorize funding for activities to enhance integrative medicine and preventive medicine education. Ultimately these enhanced education opportunities will lead to an improved public health workforce. Meharry Medical College’s (MMC) preventive and occupational medicine programs are among the 16 recipients of this funding. It will be used to incorporate evidence-based integrative medicine curricula in its accredited preventive medicine residency program and improve clinical teaching in both preventive and integrative medicine.

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Oct 30 2012
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An APHA Presentation: Addressing Racial Health Disparities with Culturally Competent Interventions Delivered from the African American Church

By Daniel L. Howard, PhD, executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. The Center’s mission is to provide leadership in health policy education, research and reform, while improving the health and health care of underserved communities. This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.

Daniel Howard

This week, I am part of a team that had the honor of being chosen to conduct a presentation on mental health in African American faith-based communities at the 140th Annual Meeting and Exposition for the American Public Health Association (APHA).  This is a significant topic for clinicians, researchers and policy-makers to consider when addressing mental health needs for African American individuals and their communities.

The Surgeon General’s Report Supplement (2001) noted that science can offer effective treatments for most disorders.  However, it noted, “Americans do not share equally in the best that science has to offer.” Numerous others researchers have concluded that publicly provided behavioral health services must be improved for ethnic minorities.

Research has consistently shown that, despite significant prevalence of mental health issues in the United States, most individuals do not seek treatment for these issues. Historically, research has shown that African Americans are even less likely to seek mental health treatment than their Caucasian counterparts. There are several reasons for this that are not exclusive to, but do include, the stigma that surrounds mental health in African American communities, the perceptions of mental health in African American communities, and the limited mental health resources available to address mental health needs in the community.

Despite the indication that the majority of mental health service needs for African Americans are unmet, there has been a strong and consistent response from the African American church to serve as the surrogate for the medical sector. Many published studies have found that African American churches have strong potential to serve as a highly effective gateway for the successful delivery of health intervention. The compatibility between health and wellness and African American churches, and particularly between mental health wellness and African American churches, can be attributed to several factors including the church’s consistent tradition of supporting its members and the inherent emphasis on the healing of psychological ills.

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Aug 1 2012
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Meet the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College

This is part of a series introducing programs in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio. The mission of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College is to provide leadership in health policy education along with research and reform on a national, state and local level while continually supporting the historic mission of Meharry Medical College: to improve the health and health care of minority and underserved communities.

file Cheryl Chun, MS, MA

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College connects scholars to address health policy solutions, bridging experiences and disciplines from sociology, economics and political science. Each one travels a different road.

Cheryl Chun’s path to medical school began in a high school math classroom.

Teaching in DC public schools taught Cheryl Chun important lessons. Some of her best students missed class while waiting in line at a free clinic with a sick, non-English speaking parent, to assist with translation. Another student was too exhausted to attend class after waiting all night in an emergency room to receive treatment for an asthma attack. Chun found students’ lack of health care access hurt their education.

“I had students who wanted to be in class but the realities of their lives just got in the way,” Chun explained.  Watching her students struggle with access to good health and the myriad of social and economic inequalities that restricted their educational access convinced Chun, 28, to return to school to become a physician. She was committed to practicing in a medically underserved community. So, Chun chose the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, where social scientists, policy experts and medical professionals grapple with complex social conditions in search of solutions rooted in health equity.

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Jul 19 2012
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Human Capital News Roundup: Paying patients for tissue donation, intermittent explosive disorder, effect of diet on menopause, 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 and grantees. Some recent examples:

Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, chaired an Institute of Medicine panel that last week recommended soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan undergo annual screenings for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Associated Press and Health Day News are among the outlets to report on the recommendations.

Reuters reports that RWJF Clinical Scholar Katherine Neuhausen, MD, co-authored an editorial in the Archives of Internal Medicine to accompany a study examining the effects of upcoming changes in Medicare and Medicaid payment policies on safety-net hospitals. Instead of penalizing struggling safety net hospitals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state Medicaid agencies should design incentive programs that reward safety-net hospitals for improving patient experience and quality, they write.

Dominick L. Frosch, PhD, an alumnus of the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program and recipient of an Investigator Award, continues to receive media coverage for his study that finds most patients are unwilling to speak up when they disagree with their care providers. Reuters reports on the findings. Read an RWJF Human Capital Blog Q&A with Frosch on his study.

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Jul 11 2012
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International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora 2012: Scholars React

Last week was the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora (ICHAD), which convened experts from a variety of fields to discuss the health and social experience of African descendants in the Western hemisphere. Below, two scholars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College who attended the conference talk about the experience. Courtney Sinclair Thomas,  BS, is a 2011 health policy fellow and doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University, and Erika Leslie, MSPH, is a 2012 health policy fellow and doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University.

Courtney Sinclair Thomas Courtney Sinclair Thomas

Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to attend the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora?

Courtney Sinclair Thomas: I decided to attend ICHAD because thus far, my research has been focused on the health of African Americans in the United States. However, I realize that the shared history of the Transatlantic slave trade unites members of the Diaspora in unique ways. I wanted to learn more about the experiences of Blacks from throughout the Diaspora so that I could gain insight into the phenomenon of "race," which has such a significant impact on our health and life chances.

HCB: Please explain the ways that being a descendant of slavery can affect individual, family and population health today.

Sinclair Thomas: Being a descendent of slavery has major impacts on health today. I am interested in social determinants of health, and the experience of slavery has left an entire race at greater risk for many health conditions. This is particularly due to increased chronic stresses, discrimination, and lower social status and access to opportunities.

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Jul 10 2012
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International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora 2012: Scholars React

Last week was the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora (ICHAD), which convened experts from a variety of fields to discuss the health and social experience of African descendants in the Western hemisphere. Below, two scholars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College who attended the conference talk about the experience. Helena Dagadu, MPH, is a 2011 health policy fellow and doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University, and Tulani Washington-Plaskett, MS, is a Fall 2011 health policy scholar and second-year medical student at Meharry Medical College.

Helena Dagadu Helena Dagadu

Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to attend the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora?

Helena Dagadu: When I met Dr. LaVeist almost two years ago, he shared his idea about ICHAD with me. As he described his vision for the conference, I knew I had to be a part of it. My research and policy interests fit directly with the spirit of ICHAD to both understand and address health disparities among people of African descent. I also attended because this was an opportunity to meet people from different disciplines and gain some insights from their respective perspectives.

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Jul 6 2012
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International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora

An international group of scholars, policy-makers, health workers, health advocates, and journalists are convened in Baltimore, Maryland this week for the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora (ICHAD), to discuss the health and social experience of African descendants in the Western hemisphere. The theme of ICHAD 2012 is “The Great Scattering: Solving the Puzzle of Slavery, Race, and Contemporary Health in the African Diaspora.”

This afternoon at 3:15 pm EST, @RWJF_HumanCap will be live-tweeting a presentation at ICHAD by Eleanor Fleming, PhD, DDS, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on “USA Social Determinants of Health and Health Differences between Native and Foreign-born Blacks in the United States.” Fleming is a former scholar at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.

Click the “read more” link below to see videos from ICHAD co-sponsor Daniel L. Howard, PhD, executive director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, and ICHAD conference chair Thomas LaVeist, PhD, director of the Center for Health Disparities Solutions at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Read an op-ed by Howard and LaVeist in the Baltimore Sun.

Learn more about ICHAD 2012.

May 30 2012
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New Census Report Signals Need for Change in Health Care Workforce

By Daniel L. Howard, PhD, executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. The Center’s mission is to provide leadership in health policy education, research and reform, while improving the health and health care of underserved communities.

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On May 17th, the U. S. Census reported a dramatic and historic shift in the nation’s demographics. For the first time, babies born from multicultural groups—African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and others—comprise the majority of new births in the United States. This trend indicates that the nation will soon transform from a white-majority-dominated population of approximately 85 percent, just a generation ago, to a minority-majority-dominated country.

The population shift also has great implications for the nation’s overall health. The groups that will soon make up the majority of our citizens suffer from significant health care disparities by almost every indicator—access, quality of care and health status.

The New America

In the 1950’s, the U. S. Census reported that whites were roughly 90 percent of the population, while Blacks were 10 percent. In the 1970’s, whites were approximately 84 percent of the population, Blacks 11 percent, and Hispanics 5 percent. By 1990, whites were less than 79 percent and Blacks and Hispanics were 12 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

As of 2011, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other minority groups account for 50.4 percent of births, 49.7 percent of all children under five years old and slightly more than half of the 4 million children under one year old. A key reason is that a greater share of the minority population is of child-bearing age. Striking median age differences exist between races; Hispanics (27.6) and whites (42.3) are on either end of this spectrum, while African Americans (30.9) and Asians (33.2) are in between.

Yet, we live in a country where, “African Americans live sicker and die younger than any other group of Americans,” according to noted medical sociologist Thomas LaVeist, PhD, director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. And many other diverse groups struggle to obtain needed care and manage a range of chronic health problems—a situation that greatly contributes to national health care costs and underscores the need for health care policies and institutions capable of addressing health disparities.

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Apr 13 2012
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An RWJF Scholar's Non-Traditional Career Path from Public School Teacher to Medical Student

By Cheryl Chun, MS, MA, Health Policy Scholar, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College

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Before I was a medical student, I was a teacher. I taught high school mathematics for two years in the District of Columbia.

Being a public school teacher was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I spent my days trying to not only excite my students about mathematics, but also to help change their life trajectory by encouraging them to go to college.

Neither of these tasks was easy. Many of my students cited math as their least favorite subject in school. And despite the college atmosphere my colleagues and I worked diligently to create, many of my students struggled to accomplish the necessary coursework and SAT scores they needed for college.

I realized that teaching high-needs students was more complicated than having a good lesson plan. While I will always believe in the importance of having a good teacher in the classroom and up-to-date resources for them to use, my time in the classroom has showed me that often good students fall behind in school because of obstacles they face outside school. My students had to deal with guns and gang violence, not enough money for basic needs, and inadequate access to medical care. Many had no medical insurance and would miss class to spend all day waiting in line at free clinics to translate for their sick parent; or be too exhausted to come to class after spending all night with their sick child in the Emergency Room. I also saw how inadequate nutrition could affect students’ behaviors and their ability to learn.

Witnessing these needs in my classroom inspired me to go back to school and become a physician.

While I hope that I made an impact on my students while I was their teacher, I know they made an impact on me and changed my life trajectory. I hope to one day practice in a medically underserved area and help provide care to those who need it most.

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