Category Archives: Underserved populations
Annik Sorhaindo, MSc, is a senior program researcher with the Population Council’s Reproductive Health Program in Mexico. A 1997 alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Project L/EARN initiative, she conducts research to provide evidence that helps inform government policy. This post reports on her work.
Fifty-five percent of all pregnancies in Mexico are unplanned.
That dramatic statistic, from a report by the Guttmacher Institute, can be mapped to the limited access women have to contraception.
“Many women can’t readily obtain contraceptive methods,” says Annik Sorhaindo. As part of a five-organization alliance working to improve reproductive health in the world’s 11th most populous country, the council directs research and analysis for the effort.
“My work focuses on answering research questions: Which occurrences in daily life impact women’s decisions about contraception? What are the impediments to preventing teen pregnancy? What are the challenges to using contraception post-abortion?”
Sorhaindo is quick to note that the council stays above the political fray. “We do the research and interpret the results, and the advocacy organizations address the politics,” she says.
Have you signed up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge? The monthly Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) e-newsletter will keep you up to date on the work of the Foundation’s nursing programs, and the latest news, research, and trends relating to academic progression, leadership, and other essential nursing issues. Following are some of the stories in the March issue.
Nurses Need Residency Programs Too, Experts Say
Health care experts, including the Institute of Medicine in its report on the future of nursing, tout nurse residency programs as a solution to high turnover among new graduate nurses. Now, more hospitals are finding that these programs reduce turnover, improve quality, and save money. Success stories include Seton Healthcare Family in Austin, Texas, which launched a residency program to help recent nursing school graduates transition into clinical practice. Now, three out of four new graduate nurses make it to the two-year point, and five or six new nurse graduates apply for each vacant position.
Iowa Nurses Build Affordable, Online Nurse Residency Program
Some smaller health care facilities, especially in rural areas, cannot afford to launch nurse residency programs to help new nurses transition into clinical practice. A nursing task force in Iowa has developed an innovative solution: an online nurse residency program that all health care facilities in the state—and potentially across the country—can use for a modest fee. The task force was organized by the Iowa Action Coalition and supported by an RWJF State Implementation Program grant.
Vanessa Grubbs, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, and a scholar with the RWJF Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program. She is writing a book about what she calls the “sometimes irrational use of dialysis in America,” which will include a version of this narrative essay.
It is a Monday afternoon like any other and time to make my weekly rounds at the San Francisco General Hospital outpatient dialysis center. I push my cart of medical charts down the long aisle of our L-shaped dialysis unit and see Mr. Rojas, my dialysis patient for over a year now. He is in his mid-40s and slender, sitting in the burgundy-colored vinyl recliner. His blue-jeaned legs and sneakered feet are propped up on the extended leg rest. The top of his head shines through thinning salt and pepper hair. White earbud headphones peek through gray sideburns. He is looking intently at his Kindle, rarely glancing up at the activity around him.
I roll my cart up to his recliner, catching his eye. His right hand removes the earbuds as the left pauses his movie. He looks up at me, smiling. “Hola, Doctora. How are you?” he says with emphasis on the “are.”
“I am good. How are you doing?” I smile back at him as I grab his chart from the rack. I write down his blood pressure and pulse—both normal—and the excellent blood flow displayed on the dialysis machine. My eyes shift to his fistula, the surgically thickened vein robustly coursing halfway up his left forearm like a slithering garden snake. It is beautiful to me. Through it, Mr. Rojas is connected to the dialysis machine.
“I am good, Doctora. No problems. I feel healthy. Strong.” His brown eyes glint.
Janice Johnson Dias, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections alumnus (2008) and president of the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, a health advocacy that develops and scales community health initiatives for women and girls. She is a graduate of Brandeis and Temple universities and a newly tenured faculty member in the sociology department at City University of New York/John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Policy action and discussion this month have focused on poverty, sparked by the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and Dr. King’s birthday. Though LBJ and King disagreed about the Vietnam War, they shared a commitment to ending poverty. Half a century ago, President Johnson introduced initiatives to improve the education, health, skills, jobs, and access to economic resources for the poor. Meanwhile, Dr. King tackled poverty through the “economic bill of rights” and the Poor People's Campaign. Both their efforts focused largely on employment.
Where is health in these and other anti-poverty efforts?
The answer seems simple: nowhere and everywhere. Health continues to play only a supportive role in the anti-poverty show. That's a mistake in our efforts to end poverty. It was an error in 1964 and 1968, and it remains an error today.
Let us consider the role of health in education and employment, the two clear stars of anti-poverty demonstrations. Research shows that having health challenges prevents the poor from gaining full access to education and employment. Sick children perform more poorly in schools. Parents with ill children work fewer hours, and therefore earn less. Health care costs can sink families deeper into debt.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, an RWJF Scholar and Soon-to-Be Physician Resolves to Help End Health Disparities
Cheryl Chun, MS, MA, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Scholar (2011) at the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and a medical student at Meharry Medical College. She received a BS degree from George Washington University and an MA from American University. She taught for Teach for America for two years.
Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, our country takes a moment to reflect on the progress we have made toward becoming the nation we have always strived to be—one of equality. And while many of us would agree that significant headway has been made, we all know that we still have so much farther to go before we can truly achieve Dr. King’s dream.
I read the local and national news regularly and there always seems to be another article or story that speaks to the ongoing challenges of realizing this equity, including the educational achievement gap, health disparities, and even policies that allow inequalities to continue to exist across our society. It is almost scary that so many critical components of our lives are determined solely by our place of residence. In fact, it’s one’s zip code that often has the greatest impact on the quality of one’s education, one’s future health status, and even the types of food and nutritional resources to which one has access. These social determinants of health ultimately decide who will remain healthy throughout life and who will eventually become unwell.
Newly minted physicians who train in underserved health facilities are much more likely to continue practicing in such facilities after completing their residency training, according to research by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, an independent research unit of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
The study, “Do Residents Who Train in Safety Net Settings Return for Practice?,” found that up to half of medical residents who trained in rural health clinics, critical access hospitals, and federally qualified health centers—which serve most of the nation's uninsured and underinsured patients—returned to practice in those settings. The study is published in the December issue of Academic Medicine.
“Overall, between one-third and one-half of the residents we identified in any of these settings during training were also identified as practicing in these same settings after training,” writes Robert Phillips, MD, MSPH, and his co-authors.
Telepresence robots are expanding access to specialists in rural hospitals experiencing shortages of physicians, and in other hospitals throughout the country, reports the Associated Press.
Devices such as the RP-VITA, introduced earlier this year, can be controlled remotely with a desktop computer, laptop, or iPad, allowing physicians to interact with patients through video-conferencing via a large screen that projects the doctor's face. An auto-drive function allows the robot to find its way to patients' rooms, and sensors help it avoid obstacles. It also gives the physician access to clinical data and medical images.
Dignity Health, a hospital system with facilities in Arizona, California, and Nevada, started using telepresence robots five years ago to promptly evaluate patients who had potentially suffered strokes. Dignity now has robots in emergency rooms and intensive care units at about 20 California hospitals, giving them access to specialists in areas such as neurology, cardiology, neonatology, pediatrics, and mental health.
Gretchen Hammer, MPH, is executive director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved. She works with local and state health care leaders and policy-makers to improve Colorado’s health care system.
Healing is both an art and a science. On one hand, clinicians are intensely driven by the quantifiable, the measurable, and the evidence-based algorithms that lead to accurate diagnosis and treatment as well as allow us to develop new innovations in medicine. However, healing is also an art. Patients are not just a collection of systems that can be separated out and managed in isolation of the whole patient. Each patient and their family has a unique set of values, life experiences, and resources that influence their health and ability to heal. Recognizing the wholeness and uniqueness of each patient is where the art of healing begins.
Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It takes presence of mind and time to be empathetic. For clinicians, finding the balance between the necessary detachment to allow for good clinical decision making and empathy can challenging. This balance can be particularly difficult for students and new clinicians.
Tammy Chang, MD, MPH, MS, is an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program.
Over kitchen tables as well as on Capitol Hill, the discussion continues over the Affordable Care Act including who will benefit and what it means for everyday Americans.
To shed light on this debate, my co-author Matthew Davis, MD, MAPP, and I recently published a study that describes the characteristics of Americans potentially eligible for the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, uses a national source of data used by many other researchers who look at national trends—such as high blood pressure and obesity—called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
Richard Rieselbach, MD, is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows program and a professor emeritus and health policy consultant for the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation.
In the last decade, the nation’s community health centers (CHCs) have doubled their capacity. They now provide care for more than 22 million underserved children and adults in every state. But they’re going to need to do it again. By 2019, some 40 million patients will be in need of care.
The United States does not have enough primary care providers to serve these new patients, and our public investment in health professions education—graduate medical education (GME)—is failing to produce the pipeline we need. Medical students are choosing specialties over primary care at an alarming rate, and a policy vacuum keeps the GME program from being held accountable.
An initiative was launched in 2011 that I think holds great promise: the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education initiative. This five-year, $230 million program was funded by the Affordable Care Act and created to increase the number of primary care graduates trained in community settings.
My colleagues and I have proposed a modified and expanded version of this initiative, called “CHAMP” Teaching Health Centers (CHAMP THCs). Our teaching model would pair CHCs with academic medical centers to develop a THC track that would encourage students to graduate in primary care and practice in urban and rural underserved areas.