Sep 26 2013

Human Capital News Roundup: Medical school debt, the lasting impact of good teachers, bans on beauty pageants, 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 number of emergency department visits by adults in California increased 13 percent between 2005 and 2010, with the biggest increase seen among those on Medicaid, according to a research letter by RWJF Physician Faculty Scholar Renee Y. Hsia, MD, MSc, and colleagues. The researchers say Californians with Medicaid may be having trouble finding primary care, forcing them to rely on emergency departments.

African American medical school students anticipate having significantly higher debts from their years in school than students of other races and ethnicities, according to a study co-authored by RWJF Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research recipient Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH. The findings “also underscore the belief that the high cost of medical school deters qualified minority students from applying and enrolling, especially among African American students,” U.S. News & World Report says.

A study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus Haslyn Hunte, PhD, MPH, finds that people of all races who perceive they have been discriminated against—whether everyday discrimination or a single instance of "major" discrimination—have higher levels of drug use than people who have not had such experiences. "Mental health and substance abuse providers should consider treating experiences of unfair treatment/discrimination as a risk factor for drug use as they do other experiences of stress, such as the death of a loved one," Hunte told Medical XPress. "They should also not assume that discrimination is only a problem for racial/ethnic minorities."

A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, co-authored by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus John N. Friedman, PhD, finds that having good teachers—as measured by the teachers’ impacts on their students' test scores—in 4th through 8th grade can have a lasting impact on children. The Wall Street Journal Real Time Economics blog reports that students with such “value-added” teachers were more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in higher socioeconomic status neighborhoods, and have higher savings rates.

Martha Bailey, PhD, an alumna of the Scholars in Health Policy Research program and co-editor of the new book Legacies of the War on Poverty, was a guest on NPR’s Tell Me More to discuss how the United States is addressing poverty, almost 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty.”

Past research has shown a negative association between educational attainment and smoking, but a new study by Health & Society Scholars alumna Vida Maralani, PhD, MA, finds that less educated Americans are more likely to smoke not because they would have quit had they continued their education, but rather because other factors in their youth made them more likely to begin smoking in the first place. Her findings suggest that reducing the number of adult smokers may require intervening earlier in life—between the ages of 12 and 17, Health Canal reports.

An op-ed in The New York Times cites research by Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, PhD, on the impact of the food stamp program in its early years in the 1960s and 1970s. She and her co-author “found that children who received early assistance grew up, on average, to be healthier and more productive adults than those who didn’t [receive assistance]—and they were also, it turns out, less likely to turn to the safety net for help,” the op-ed says. Schanzenbach was also in the news for her research on the impact of free public preschools for low- and high-income families. The Wall Street Journal Real Time Economics blog reports on her presentation on the topic at a Brookings Papers on Economic Activity event.

In the wake of the Navy Yard shootings in Washington, DC, CBS DC radio interviewed several experts about mental illness and violence , including three RWJF scholars: Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipients Sherry Glied, PhD, and Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, and Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus Michael Gusmano, PhD.

Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, co-authored an op-ed for the Washington Post about untreated mental illness and social isolation, in the aftermath of the Navy Yard shootings. “Unfortunately, our zest for independence can become something far different: toxic social isolation,” he writes. “And our society doesn’t do well at bringing vulnerable people at our margins back into the fold… To combat loneliness in our society, we should aggressively target the people on the periphery with interventions to repair their social networks. Even better would be to prevent some of these individuals from ever becoming socially isolated… By helping those at risk of social isolation, we can protect our social fabric from unraveling.”

Following a vote in the French Senate to ban child beauty pageants, USA Today spoke with Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, about why a ban of that sort is highly unlikely in the United States. Friedman is author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture. She also published an op-ed about the country's competitive sports culture for The Atlantic.

Tags: Health & Society Scholars, Human Capital News, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Leadership Development, Media Coverage, Physician Faculty Scholars, Research & Analysis, Scholars in Health Policy Research