Category Archives: Public health

Oct 24 2014
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Working Together to Draw More Nurses to Public Health

Patricia Drehobl, MPH, RN, is associate director for program development at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows program (2007-2010).

Patricia Drehobl

Human Capital Blog: CDC is engaging in new partnerships with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) to promote public health nursing. How did the new collaboration come about?

Pat Drehobl: CDC has funded some national academic associations for many years, including the Association of Schools of Public Health, the Association of Prevention Teaching and Research, and the Association of American Medical Colleges. We recognized the need to include nursing representation because nursing is the largest discipline in the public health workforce. We added AACN as a partner in 2012 when we developed our funding opportunity announcement to work with academic partners.

HCB: Why did CDC decide to reach out to the nursing community in 2012?

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Sep 29 2014
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Intimate Partner Violence: What We Tell Our Children Can Make a Difference

A. Monique Clinton-Sherrod, PhD, is a 2008 alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Connections program. She is an RTI research psychologist with extensive experience in prevention research associated with a variety of psychosocial issues.

Monique Clinton-Sherrod

Recently while watching ESPN with my two children, we saw nonstop coverage of the Ray Rice incident, including the video of Mr. Rice violently assaulting Janay Palmer, his then-fiancée. I was peppered with questions from my children. 

“Did he get arrested? Why did he do that? What did she do? Is that something they shouldn’t show on television because it’s private?”

The recurring images and my children’s questions were all the more jarring because I recently lost a sorority sister in a murder-suicide by her former husband. These experiences have served as an unfortunate but teachable moment for my daughter and son, and reinforced the importance of my life’s work—both for my children and for society as a whole. 

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Sep 12 2014
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Changing the Culture of Health to Prevent Suicide

Alexander Tsai, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a staff psychiatrist in the Massachusetts General Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry, and an honorary lecturer at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2010-2012), and a member of the core faculty in the Health & Society Scholars program at Harvard University.

Alexander Tsai

When Robin Williams ended his life last month, his suicide sparked a raft of online and print commentary about the dangers of depression and the need to inject more resources into our mental health care system. I strongly agree with these sentiments. After all, as a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, I regularly speak with patients who have been diagnosed with depression or who are actively thinking about ending their lives.

But what if suicide prevention isn’t just about better screening, diagnosis and treatment of depression? What if there were a better way to go about preventing suicides?

It is undeniable that people with mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder are at greater risk for suicidal thinking or suicide attempts. But not everyone with depression commits suicide, and not everyone who has committed suicide suffered from depression. In fact, even though depression is a strong predictor of suicidal thinking, it does not necessarily predict suicide attempts among those who have been thinking about suicide. Instead, among people who are actively thinking about suicide, the mental illnesses that most strongly predict suicide attempts are those characterized by anxiety, agitation and poor impulse control.

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Sep 3 2014
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Accepting the Challenge: What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Can Teach Us About Public Health

Elizabeth Gross Cohn, PhD, RN, is director of the Center for Health Innovation at Adelphi University, an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing, and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar.

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It only took 24 hours for the hospital unit where I work to complete the Ice Bucket Challenge. My colleagues and I were quick to dump ice water on our heads and publicly post a video of it to YouTube. Compare that to the speed at which we adapt other initiatives—even those that benefit our own health.

Why the difference? What is prompting people to action and, more importantly, what can RWJF learn from this campaign as it works to advance a Culture of Health?

In case you’ve been unplugged over the past several weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge started in golf and baseball but has spread virally. As of today, it has raised $100 million for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  Participation begins when you are challenged on social media to—within 24 hours—publicly accept, acknowledge the challenger by name, pour ice water over your head in as dramatic a method as you can imagine or afford, challenge two or three others to participate, and post the results to YouTube.  This campaign has been embraced by the general public, celebrities, grandmothers, babies, and teams of teachers, firefighters, nurses, teachers and others.  

We public health professionals can learn some important lessons about delivering information and impelling action from this extraordinary cultural phenomenon. Here are five factors that seem most potent to me. Do you see others?

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Aug 22 2014
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We See the Dead and Don’t See the Living: The Realities of Black Men

Keon L. Gilbert, DrPH, MA, MPA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science & Health Education at St. Louis University's College for Public Health and Social Justice and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee.

Keon Gilbert

Involuntary martyrs.

In 1999, 28-year-old Demetrius DuBose, a linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was shot 12 times by two officers in his San Diego neighborhood. DuBose was a former co-captain of Notre Dame’s famed football team. His death came after he was questioned and harassed regarding a burglary in his neighborhood. Officers reported they had no choice but to shoot DuBose while he was handcuffed because they feared for their lives.

Many of these details sound similar to those surrounding the death of Michael (Mike) Brown Jr., who was shot at least six times in Ferguson, Missouri, this month. Brown was unarmed. He was reportedly fleeing from a police officer who also felt his life was in danger. 

What is missing from this picture is that black males also feel threatened and distrustful of authority figures and are routinely disengaged from contexts such as schools, medical facilities and neighborhoods. The narrative remains the same: Black males who die from excessive force become involuntary martyrs for the sustained legacy of institutional and interpersonal racism that is associated with the health disparities plaguing black communities. 

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Apr 28 2014
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How to Advance Minority Health? A Successful, Sustainable Effort to Promote Healthy Choices in Miami.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Lillian Rivera, RN, MSN, PhD, administrator/health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, responds to the question, “Minority health is advanced by combating disparities and promoting diversity. How do these two goals overlap?” Rivera is an alumnus of the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program.

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In order to address this question, it is important to identify the areas within your jurisdiction where there are identified health disparities and to develop initiatives with those needs in mind.

Miami-Dade County in Florida is one of the few counties in the United States that is “minority majority,” meaning the minority makes up the majority of the population. More than two-thirds of the 2.5 million residents are Hispanic; 19 percent are Black; more than 51.2 percent are foreign-born and most of  them speak a language other than English at home (mostly Spanish and Creole);  19.4 percent live below poverty level; and 29.8 percent of the population  under age 65 (more than 700,000 individuals) is uninsured .

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Apr 26 2014
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How to Address Disparities? Incorporate Community Input to Define a Culture of Health.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Ann H. Cary, PhD, MPH, RN, dean and professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, responds to the question, “What does the country need to do to address disparities and build a culture of health that includes all people?” Cary is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program (2008-2011).

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In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a morbidity and mortality report that suggests effective public health strategies for closing health equity gaps among diverse populations. In highlighting the promising evidence in four areas, the CDC reminds us that linear and silo approaches are no longer effective to solving these kinds of “wicked problems.”

Effective public health programming, it says, rests on six dimensions:

  1. The use of innovation to develop technical aspects of the programming;
  2. Packaging synergistic evidenced-based practices;
  3. Real-time monitoring that incorporates just-in-time learning into continuous improvements;
  4. Coalitions across boundaries and sectors;
  5. Effective communication and social marketing to change perceptions; and
  6. Engaged political commitments. 

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Apr 15 2014
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Media Exposure and Acute Stress Following the Boston Marathon Bombings

E. Alison Holman, PhD, FNP, is an associate professor in nursing science at the University of California, Irvine and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar.

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A year ago today, on April 15, 2013, in the first major terror attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people died and more than 260 were injured. For a week authorities searched for the perpetrators, shootouts occurred, and Boston was locked down. As reporters and spectators filmed the mayhem, graphic images were shown repeatedly in both traditional and social media around the world. Like the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks, the population of the United States was the terrorists’ intended psychological target. Yet most research on reactions to such events focuses on individuals directly affected, leaving the public health consequences for populations living outside the immediate community largely unexplored.

Tens of thousands of individuals directly witnessed 9/11, but millions more viewed the attacks and their aftermath via the media. In our three-year study following 9/11, my colleagues and I found that people who watched more than one hour of daily 9/11-related TV in the week following the attacks experienced increases in post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms (e.g., flashbacks, feeling on edge and hyper vigilant, and avoidance of trauma reminders) and physical ailments over the next three years (Silver, Holman et al., 2013).

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Mar 6 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Nurse staffing and patient mortality, communicating about vaccines, specialized HIV training for NPs, 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:

A study led by Linda H. Aiken, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, RN, and covered by CNN.com, finds that hospital nurse-patient ratios and the share of nurses with bachelor’s degrees both have an important impact on patient mortality. Aiken, a research manager supporting the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action and a member of the RWJF Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) National Advisory Committee, found that increasing a hospital nurse’s workload by one patient increased by 7 percent the likelihood of an inpatient death within 30 days of admission. The same research revealed that a 10-percent increase in the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees at a given hospital reduces the likelihood of a patient death by 7 percent. Aiken’s study has also been covered by the Guardian, Philly.com, and FierceHealthcare, among other outlets.

Public health messages aimed at boosting childhood vaccination rates may be backfiring, according to a new study led by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus Brendan Nyhan, PhD. Campaigns that use studies, facts, and images of ill children increased fears about vaccine side-effects among some parents, NBC News reports. In fact, messaging that debunked myths about links between vaccines and autism actually made parents less inclined to have their children inoculated. Time magazine online also covered the study.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing has developed a new curriculum that provides specialized HIV training to nurse practitioners, with funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Medical Xpress reports. “The design of our program starts with the recognition that HIV care cannot be provided in a silo, that it needs to be integrated holistically into primary care," RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, said in a statement. Farley is the developer of the curriculum.

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Feb 7 2014
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A Call for Better Measures: The Well-Being of a Population is Consequential

Cary Gross, MD, is a professor of medicine and co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars Program at Yale University. Carley Riley, MD, MPP, is an RWJF Clinical Scholar and Brita Roy, MD, MPH, MS, is an RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar. This post is part of the “Health Care in 2014” series.

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As a new year begins, we are inundated with information summarizing the prior year: the top 10 movies, most newsworthy moments, and worst Hollywood breakups. Yet the topic that draws the most attention is the economy and our financial health. We gather a tremendous amount of information to assess this. The Census Bureau randomly selects 60,000 households each month, unleashing a swarm of 2,000 field representatives to track down the selected participants and assess their employment status. The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys 500,000 businesses to estimate job creation. Approximately 5,000 “consumers” are surveyed each month to gauge their confidence. And so on.

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So there you have it: we know that in 2013, the unemployment rate decreased from 7.9 percent to 6.7 percent, about 2.1 million new jobs were created, consumer confidence increased, and the Dow Jones index rose by 26.5 percent. Certainly, the health of the national economy is important, but is this the type of health that really matters most? When envisioning a healthy life, many people think about the sort of health that allows us to engage in enjoyable activities, maintain strong interpersonal relationships, and feel that our lives have purpose. A full assessment of health—of individuals, communities, and the country—should assess these dimensions.

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Aren’t we already awash in data about health and well-being? Yes and no. There are abundant data concerning insurance status, prevalence of diseases, and utilization of health care. Additionally, large national survey efforts through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gather information on disease risk factors and health behaviors.  But well-being is not captured by these data. Well-being is a comprehensive construct accounting for interwoven facets—such as physical, mental, and social health—that together comprise a global assessment of true health. It refers to a positive state of health that allows for the pursuit of meaningful activities, formation of a cohesive social network, planning for the future, and coping with, overcoming, and even growing from negative events.

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