Aug 29 2013
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Human Capital News Roundup: Depression and poverty, substance use among SNAP recipients, accountable care organizations, 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:

The U.S. News & World Report Economic Intelligence blog cites a study co-authored by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna M. Marit Rehavi, PhD, that finds mothers who are physicians are 9 percent less likely to have unscheduled C-sections than their non-physician counterparts. The researchers used this and other data to examine the interaction between patient information and financial incentives for physicians, as C-sections are typically more profitable than traditional deliveries.

A low-cost, home-based program called “Beat the Blues” lowers depressive symptoms among older African Americans who are having trouble paying for basic needs, according to a study co-authored by RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Sarah Szanton, PhD, CRNP. Szanton’s findings coupled with those in another study that showed meaningful reductions in depressive symptoms from the program “suggest that depression can be 'decoupled’ from financial strain," Nurse.com reports.

Harold Pollack, PhD, MPP, co-authored a post for the Washington Post Wonk blog about research he led that finds adults whose households receive support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are only slightly more likely than non-recipients to display substance use disorders. “Proposals to drug-test SNAP recipients don’t address the genuine challenges posed by drug and alcohol misuse in American society,” he writes. “Instead, poor families who seek a little help with the food money are being used as stage extras in a different, nasty ideological fight.” Pollack is an alumnus of the Scholars in Health Policy Research program and recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.

Kelly Devers, PhD, an alumna of the Scholars in Health Policy Research program, spoke to Kaiser Health News to answer some frequently asked questions about accountable care organizations (ACOs), including who runs them and why someone should consider an ACO over a health maintenance organization.

RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Elizabeth Sweet, PhD, continues to receive media coverage for a study she led that finds high levels of financial debt among young people raises blood pressure and perceived stress and depression. CBS News reports on the findings.

Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus Michael Greenstone, PhD, gave comments to the Washington Post about the local health impacts of natural gas drilling, or “fracking.”

Investigator Award recipient and Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Cathy Cohen, PhD, spoke to Color Lines about why young people are stepping up to organize protests and spur political action. “Young people don’t always have to think about mortgages and jobs and childcare and are freer to engage in a certain kind of risk that as you get older you’re less likely to get involved in,” Cohen says.

An article in Pacific Standard Magazine cites research by two RWJF scholars: Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus Brendan Nyhan, PhD, and Investigator Award recipient Peter Ubel, MD. Nyhan’s research has found that information is less likely to have its desired impact if it runs counter to a person’s ideology and lowers their self-worth. Another study co-authored by Nyhan and Ubel found similar results—that when information is threatening, “it causes people to create counterarguments, even to the point that they overcompensate and become more convinced of their original view.”

Tags: Accountable care organizations, Behavioral/mental health, Health & Society Scholars, Human Capital, Human Capital News, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Media Coverage, Nurse Faculty Scholars, Nurses, Nursing, Poor and economically disadvantaged, Research, Research & Analysis, Scholars in Health Policy Research, Substance use