Nov 21 2013

Human Capital News Roundup: Electronic health records, the widow effect, child safety restraint laws, 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:

Race and economic status are not as important as social network in predicting whether a person will become a victim of a fatal shooting in Chicago, according to a study from Andrew Papachristos, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus. “Generally, you can’t catch a bullet from just anyone,” Papachristos told the Chicago Sun Times. “Your relationship with the people involved matters.” The study was also covered by NPR, U.S. News & World Report, and Psych Central, among other outlets.

Most organizations across the United States are in the middle stages of implementing electronic health records, Ann O’Brien, RN, told O’Brien is senior director of clinical informatics for Kaiser Permanente and an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow. “At Kaiser … we have almost three years now of electronic health record data and the ability to actually optimize data and technology to improve care,” she said.

A study by RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Greg Duncan, PhD, will explore whether higher family income delivers a measurable change in family life and brain development in very young children, reports the BBC. Duncan will use a research prize to give a randomized group of low-income single mothers of newborns $4,000 each for the first three years of their children's lives, and then determine how the added income affects the children’s development and school performance. This story was also covered in Medical Daily.

Harlan Krumholz, MD, director of the Yale RWJF Clinical Scholars Program, provides guidance on the new American College of Cardiology cholesterol guidelines in a New York Times blog post. The guidelines recognize that, for some patients, the question is not whether a drug makes lab tests better but whether it lowers risk of heart disease and stroke. Krumholz’s guidance is also cited in the print edition of the New York Times and in Forbes.

Due to the cost of participating, organized sports and other outside-of-school activities tend to benefit already advantaged children, thus increasing disparities, Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, writes in The Atlantic. She observes that in discussions of educational inequalities, “one often overlooked factor is the opportunities middle- and upper-middle-class kids get to strengthen their life skills through organized competitive activities.” Friedman is an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna. Read more about her views here.

The Wall Street Journal and Amy Dockser Marcus, AB, are launching “Trials,” a multimedia project that follows families as they search for a cure to save their children from an extremely rare disease, Niemann-Pick Type C. Marcus, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award, discusses the project in a video interview.

When a husband or wife dies, the surviving spouse faces a heightened risk of dying over the next three months, according to a report from S.V. Subramanian, PhD, MPhil. It was covered by the New York Daily News. Previous studies have identified the so-called “widow effect,” but without analyzing how long it lasts. “It’s possible it’s a grief-related mechanism … or that, as one’s spouse gets sicker, the surviving spouse stops taking care of their own health,” said Subramanian, an RWJF Investigator Award recipient.

Fast food customers are not good at estimating calories in their meals, according to RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus Jason Block, MD, MPH. CBS News reports that about two-thirds of customers surveyed in Block’s study thought there were fewer calories in their meals than there actually were. The story was covered on and Huffington Post. Block’s separate study on the relationship between sales and cost of sugary drinks was covered by USA Today and Medpage Today.

Front-of-package food labels with a nutrition “score” may be the most user-friendly approach to disseminating nutrition information, according to a study from RWJF Health & Society Scholar Christina Roberto, PhD. Preliminary findings are showing that the simplicity of a one-number system, and the fact that it allows users to compare numbers, may be helpful to consumers trying to eat healthy foods, Roberto told the Huffington Post.

The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles Alice Goffman, PhD, on the occasion of the publication of her new book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. Goffman, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna, documents how the expansion of America’s criminal justice system is reshaping life for Black families living in poverty and under the scrutiny of police, prison guards, and parole officers.

Research published in Social Science and Medicine shows that many child safety restraint laws lag behind research on vehicular safety, and do not follow guidelines from medical experts, Health Canal reports. RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus James Macinko, PhD, MA, is co-author of the study. RWJF’s Public Health Law Research Program provided funding for it.

In the wake of mass shootings and other tragedies, the media risk legitimizing fringe conspiracy theories by writing extensively about them, Brendan Nyhan, PhD, said in a Politico interview. The article cites Nyhan’s essay on “false flag” conspiracy theories—theories that the government is behind mass casualty events. Nyhan is an RWJF Health Policy Research alumnus.

Difficulties navigating the new health exchanges are partly due to the complexity inherent in the intricacies of the private insurance market, Harold Pollack, PhD, MPP, said on NPR’s Morning Edition. “We end up with a very klugey system … because it’s set up to minimize disruption and to allow for a series of really very delicate compromises.” Pollack is an alumnus of the RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research program and recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award.  The radio broadcast is available here.

Tags: Clinical Scholars, Executive Nurse Fellows, Health & Society Scholars, Human Capital News, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Media Coverage, Nursing, Scholars in Health Policy Research