Category Archives: Food access

Jan 20 2014

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.

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Dec 16 2013

Explaining the Link between Income, Race, and Susceptibility to Kidney Disease

Deidra Crews, MD, ScM, an alumna of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (2009-2013), was named the 2013-2015 Gilbert S. Omenn Anniversary Fellow at the prestigious Institute of Medicine. Among her current research is a study examining the association between unhealthy diet and kidney disease among low-income individuals.


Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your fellowship! What are your priorities for the coming year?

Deidra Crews: Over the next two years, I'll be participating in different activities of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). I'll be working with IOM committees and participating in roundtables and workshops. That's the main function of the fellowship. The great thing about it is I'll get to experience firsthand the activities of IOM and hopefully contribute to one or more of the reports that will come out of the IOM over the next couple of years. Because of my interest in disparities in chronic kidney disease, I will be working with the committee on social and behavioral domains for electronic health records, which falls under the IOM board of population health and public health practice. We will be making recommendations on which social and behavioral factors should be tracked in patients' electronic health records.

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Aug 23 2012

Human Capital News Roundup: Healthy food "prescriptions," student debt, the tax system, 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:

Women who had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as girls are more likely to hurt themselves or attempt suicide, compared to those who did not have ADHD, according to a longitudinal study led by RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Stephen P. Hinshaw, PhD. More than half of the girls, ages 6 to 12, who were tracked by the study were reported to have engaged in self-injurious behavior, and more than one-fifth had attempted suicide, United Press International reports. Among the other outlets to report on the findings: Health Day, MediLexicon, Health Canal, and Science Daily.

The New York Times interviewed RWJF Clinical Scholars alumna Comilla Sasson, MD, MS, and others who were working at the University of Colorado Hospital the night of the shootings at an Aurora movie theater. Sasson’s team treated 23 patients, and every patient who arrived at the hospital with a pulse survived. “We went into emergency medicine because we know it’s crazy—you never know what’s going to come through the door,” she said. “But the thing none of us have gotten over is, we made it through. We really, truly shined [that night].” Read a post Sasson wrote for the RWJF Human Capital Blog about the experience.

RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Physician Faculty Scholar Rebecca Sudore, MD, continues to receive media coverage for a study she led that finds almost half of adults with type 2 diabetes experience acute and chronic pain. “Palliative care has already begun to be woven into the care provided to patients with cancer, heart failure and kidney failure,” Sudore told Health Day. “Our results highlight the need to expand diabetes management to also include the palliative care model.”

RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN, spoke to NBC News about a study conducted by researchers in England that finds “some terminally ill children experience unnecessary treatment and prolonged suffering because their parents believe they will experience a ‘miracle cure.’” These situations occur rarely, Rushton says, and “it takes time to evolve and fully understand every perspective and rationale. The process should take seriously the implications of overruling parents’ deeply held religious viewpoints, and include sufficient safeguards that are fair and balanced.”

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Mar 29 2012

Human Capital News Roundup: Food deserts, physician misconduct online, health benefits of strong social ties, and more.

Around the country, the news media is covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scholars, fellows and grantees. Here are some examples. and Becker’s Hospital Review report on the launch of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)-supported Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN) initiative. The $4.3 million, Phase 1 two year-initiative will provide funding to nine state Action Coalitions as they work to advance state and regional strategies to create a more highly educated nursing workforce. Learn more about APIN.

A New York Times letter to the editor about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, written by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research program director Alan B. Cohen, ScD, was chosen as the paper’s “Sunday Dialogue,” in which readers’ responses to the letter—and Cohen’s rejoinder—were published.

RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Shannon Zenk, PhD, MPH, RN, spoke to NPR’s Salt blog about a study that finds improving cost and proximity to fresh produce is not the only incentive needed to convince people to buy fresh fruits and vegetables; consumers also care about selection and quality. Zenk says other factors, such as a lack of safety or cleanliness, and poor customer service, also can deter people from shopping for healthy food.

“New Jersey is making strides in meeting the challenges of a looming nursing shortage by providing incentives that are persuading some in the profession to turn to teaching the next generation of nurses,” NJ Spotlight writes of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative, a program of RWJF and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

RWJF Clinical Scholars alumnus Ryan Greysen, MD, MA, continues to earn media coverage about his study examining the pervasiveness of physician misconduct online and its repercussions. Becker’s Hospital Review, MD News and Modern Medicine are among the outlets to report on the findings.

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Mar 16 2012

Helping Low-Income Shoppers Access Fresh, Healthy Foods at Farmers' Markets

Alison Buttenheim, PhD, MBA, an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, is lead author of a study published online this week by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It finds Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants redeem their benefits at higher rates at farmers’ markets when there are more vendor-operated wireless point-of-sale terminals. Read the study and listen to the authors talk about the findings.


Human Capital Blog: Why is it important that SNAP (food stamp) participants are able to get food at farmers’ markets? Why should we want redemption rates to increase?

Alison Buttenheim: There’s been a lot of research into the quality of diets for SNAP participants and it’s pretty clear that there’s room for improvement. They often don’t have access to fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables and other healthy food options. We’ve seen considerable policy interest in how we might change the diets of this population. One approach has been to focus on individual behavior change, but more recently there’s also been a focus on changing the food environment to increase access to healthy food in underserved neighborhoods, in the hopes that this will encourage better diets.

HCB: Why are SNAP redemption rates lower at farmers’ markets?

Buttenheim: Food assistance used to be paper coupons that you literally tore off and handed over to vendors, which made it quite easy. Now SNAP is all electronic, and participants get a card—like a credit card—that they use to redeem their benefits. Brick-and-mortar stores that participate in the SNAP program get a free point-of-sale terminal to process these transactions, and fees associated with the transactions are subsidized. But farmers’ markets rely on third party providers to supply wireless terminals and process transactions, and these providers of course charge wireless service fees and transaction fees. It’s costly. In 2009, only 900 of the 5,200 farmers’ markets in the country participated in SNAP.

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Feb 22 2012

Sharing Nursing's Knowledge: What's in the January Issue

Are 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 latest nursing news, research and trends. Here’s a review of what’s in the January issue:

Nurse Educator Helps Lift Native Hawaiians Out of Poverty

Read about the remarkable journey of RWJF Community Health Leader Jamie Kamailani Boyd, who made a long and arduous climb out of poverty and is now helping others do the same. She has created an academic program called Pathway Out of Poverty, which helps disadvantaged Hawaiians become nurse’s aides and registered nurses.

RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows are Using Their Leadership Skills to Improve Health and Health Care

Several alumni of the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program are using the leadership and risk-taking skills they gained in the program to support Partners Investing in Nursing's Future projects in their home states.

Four Decades of Championing Nursing

This piece examines some of the early work that laid the foundation for even more innovative and ambitious RWJF programs to build nursing leadership, improve nurse education, strengthen the nursing workforce and, ultimately, improve health and health care. Read about former RWJF staff member Terrance Keenan, who influenced the Foundation’s early investments in nursing programs and initiatives.

Nurses Reach Out to Help Those Who Are Hungry

As the economic downturn made hunger and food insecurity more common last year, RWJF Scholars and alumni stepped up to help in their communities. Read about their work, individually and through their nursing schools.

See the entire January issue here. Sign up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge here.

Jan 6 2012

Abject Poverty Affects Health


As we head into 2012, the Human Capital Blog asked Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) staff, program directors, scholars and grantees to share their New Year’s resolutions for our health care system, and what they think should be the priorities for action in the New Year. This post is by Suzanne Gagnon, CFNP, RWJF Nursing and Health Policy Fellow, RWJF Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico.

I live, work and study in a state that has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. It is difficult for me as a nurse practitioner to focus my New Year’s resolution on the health care system. Yes there are health care system problems and complicated ones, but I cannot remove my gaze from the impact of abject poverty and its effects on health. Until New Mexico addresses its poverty, health care will continue to be a trailer indicator, not a primary factor for the state’s overall impact on quality of life.


I work at a School-Based Health Center in a low-income area high school in Albuquerque. I have many patients who have no other means of receiving health care due to immigration status or income-related constraints. I had a student last year who had just moved to New Mexico from another state and wondered why the amount of food stamp assistance he and his mother received was so little in comparison to his previous state. He says: “I’m so hungry all the time, I can never get enough to eat, we don’t have enough to last all month. Why is it like that here?”

We are failing our children and families in fundamental ways. I cannot supply that child with enough food by making changes in the health care system, but eventually the effects of his hunger and poverty will affect the health care system. Currently his poverty and hunger are making a huge impact on his ability to succeed as a student. Elizabeth Bradley and Lauren Taylor nailed this topic in their December 8, 2011 New York Times article, ‘To Fix Health, Help the Poor.’ They pointed out the differences between our country’s investment in health care versus social support. While we spend one dollar on health care and 90 cents on social services, other countries spend the same for health care but double that for social services. Investing in social services can do more to improve health than additional health care reforms.

A December 29, 2011 op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal by Angela Merkert and Wendy Wintermute, respectively the executive director and advocacy program director of Cuidando Los Ninos and A Home for Every Child, lists the staggering statistics that impact our state’s homeless population:

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