Oct 31 2013
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Human Capital News Roundup: The cost of disposable diapers, toxins in fish, fast food calories, 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:

WNYC in New York City broadcast an interview with RWJF Community Health Leader Joanne Goldblum about families reusing disposable diapers due to economic hardship. Goldblum, who is founder and executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, conducted a study that shows how the practice leads to a range of problems for families living in poverty.

When it comes to digital health and new ways to deliver care, the focus should be on the consumer and improving outcomes, not on the technology, according to experts at a recent Connected Health Symposium in Boston, Massachusetts. Mobile Health News reports that Propeller Health (formerly Asthmapolis) CEO David Van Sickle, PhD, MA, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus, pressed for greater emphasis on outcomes.  Read more about Van Sickle’s work here and here.

An American Thoracic Society panel of experts, including RWJF Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) grantee Richard Mularski, MD, is calling for better care for those who suffer severe shortness of breath due to advanced lung and heart disease. The Annals of the American Thoracic Society reports that the panel recommends patients and providers develop individualized actions plans to keep episodes from becoming emergencies, Medical Xpress reports.

Expedited processes have meant that testing of many new drugs now takes place after Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Of the 20 drugs approved in 2008, eight received expedited review but more than four years after they were approved, “six in 10 promises that companies made to the FDA as a condition of approval had yet to be fulfilled,” Daniel Carpenter, PhD, wrote in a commentary. Carpenter received an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research and is an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research program alumnus. Read more about the impact of delays in post-marketing studies in Medpage Today.

A new program at the University of Charleston will allow registered nurses to receive their BSN degrees entirely online, the Charleston Gazette reports. RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumni Duane Napier, MSN, RN, is the university’s BSN program coordinator. The 18-month program is intended to reverse the state’s decline in nurses educated at the baccalaureate level, and offers tracks in leadership and case management.

The University of Maryland and partners recently held a recreational fishing day at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park to study toxins found in fish from the Anacostia River, as well as to educate the public on toxins found in the water itself. “We thought it made sense to try and understand the contaminants in the river, who is affected, and how to reduce exposure,” Sacoby Wilson, PhD, MS, a Health & Society Scholars alumnus, told ElevateDC.

More discussion is needed on how to reduce crime in Illinois, writes Investigator Award recipient and Chicago Crime Lab Co-Director Jens Ludwig, PhD in a Chicago Sun Times op-ed: “More good will come from constructive problem-solving than from public bickering between people who surely all agree on the most fundamental point: the status quo level of gun violence is simply unacceptable.”

Everyday Health cites a study by Health & Society Scholars alumnus Jason Block, MD, that looked at how people estimate calories at fast food restaurants. This study provides a basis for comparison before and after implementation of an Affordable Care Act mandate that chain restaurants post calorie counts. The article notes a study by Health & Society Scholar Christina Roberto, PhD, that suggests that calorie counts are particularly effective when the numbers are put into context. Read more about Block’s research.

In a Forbes magazine op-ed, Peter Ubel, MD, highlights a study by RWJF Clinical Scholars alumnus Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MPH that analyzed employer-based financial incentives for weight loss. Kullgren and colleagues found that people receiving financial incentives lost significantly more weight, but started gaining it back when the financial incentives stopped. The op-ed by Ubel, an alumnus of the RWJF Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars program and recipient of an Investigator Award, analyzes what this study could mean for employer-based weight loss programs. Read more about Kullgren’s study.

NBC Nightly News looked at families that invest money and time in their children’s futures as athletes, despite long odds against making it as a “pro.” Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, a Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna and author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, argues that children should not be completely identified with one sport or activity. Read a post Friedman wrote about the competitive sports culture for the RWJF Human Capital Blog.

The American political system has developed into what social scientist Suzanne Mettler, PhD, has described as “the submerged state,” the Washington Post reports, where the government attempts to hide the fact that it is meeting citizens’ needs through subsidies, such as home mortgage interest tax deductions. Mettler, an Investigator Award recipient, previously found that most Americans rely on some federal assistance in subsidies or tax deductions, but do not consider themselves dependent on government. Her work is also cited in the Pacific Standard.

A Detroit Free Press op-ed co-authored by Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Helen Levy, PhD, also looks at subsidies but in the context of health care, comparing government-sponsored health insurance to tax exclusions Americans already enjoy. Health insurance is typically provided as a benefit of employment and not subject to income tax, costing the government $200 billion per year, the authors note. When the new health insurance exchanges are at full strength, some 20 million people who purchase private health insurance will receive a tax credit but, even so, the cost to taxpayers will be significantly lower than it is in the current employment-based system.

Nurse practitioners are one solution to the growing doctor shortage, the Utica Observer-Dispatch reports. “Nurse practitioners are filling in in a lot of areas,” RWJF Health Policy Fellow Stephen Ferrara, DNP, RN, NP, FAANP, told the Dispatch. He is executive director of the Nurse Practitioner Association of New York State. “[W]e present as one of the possible solutions as we look to different models of care and different delivery models in the United States and in New York in particular.”

Tags: Scholars and fellows, Nurses, Research, Medical technology, Palliative care, Prescription drugs, Continuing education, Environmental health, Community violence, Health insurance, Shortage of medical or nursing personnel, Human Capital, Human Capital News, Media Coverage, Research & Analysis, Nursing, Community Health Leaders, Health & Society Scholars, Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Scholars in Health Policy Research, Executive Nurse Fellows, Clinical Scholars, Health Policy Fellows