Dec 5 2013

Human Capital News Roundup: Light-based defibrillators, the primary care workforce, how women change men, 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 strong primary care system is essential to improving health care in the United States, and front-line clinicians, staff, and leaders need to re-examine traditional roles and responsibilities, Maryjoan Ladden, PhD, RN, FAAN, told Medical Home News. Ladden is senior program officer for RWJF’s Human Capital portfolio. To investigate primary care workforce transformation, RWJF funded The Primary Care Team: Learning from Effective Ambulatory Practices (LEAP), Ladden said.  Her full interview is available at: (subscription required.)

Women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) gain weight more rapidly and are more likely to be overweight or obese than other women, according to a study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Magdalena Cerda, DrPH. The study, featured in Health Canal, is the first to look at the relationship between PTSD and obesity over time.

New tools such as the Omnibus Risk Estimator, which the American Heart Association recommends doctors use instead of cholesterol tests to determine whether to prescribe statins, are developed with little regulatory authority over their design and use, Jason Karlawish, MD, writes in a New York Times op-ed. Karlawish, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, encourages better oversight and regulations to monitor such tools.

Replacing implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) with technology that would rely on beams of light rather than electric shocks would be beneficial to patients, RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Kathleen Hickey told the Baltimore Sun. A light-based implant, now under development at Johns Hopkins University, could reduce side effects, stress on patients and their families, and the quantity of anti-arrhythmia medications patients must take, Hickey said.

Environmental interventions such as increasing the cost of high-calorie beverages and displaying beverages by calorie content decreased their sales in a single large cafeteria, according to a study by RWJF Health & Society Scholar Jason Block. “With the goal of reducing high-calorie beverage intake, these types of interventions that are on a large scale, have imminent relevance to addressing obesity and diabetes across a population,” Block told Endocrine Today.

Wisconsin Public Radio highlights a new book by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Judith Levine, PhD, that looks at the impact of welfare reform on low-income single mothers, and the ways the policy changes implemented during the 1990s helped create distrust of the public assistance system. The radio broadcast is available here

In an article on “How Women Change Men,” The Atlantic highlights a study by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Emily Shafer, PhD, in which she found that men who have daughters grow less attached to traditional gender roles, become less likely to agree that “a woman’s place is in the home,” and more likely to agree that men should wash dishes and do other chores. 

Popular media often spread misinformation and stereotypes about sperm donations and donors, RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Rene Almeling, PhD, told Time magazine. Almeling is author of Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm. She observes that it is often hard to dislodge these myths because of a lack of research and regulation of the industry. Almeling also wrote about her work in the New York Times and for PBS. Read more about her work.

RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumni Andrew Papachristos, PhD, and Christopher Wildeman, PhD, continue to receive media attention for their study on the role social circles play in gun violence. Papachristos wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post and was interviewed by NPR. MSNBC also ran a story on his work this week.

Many privately run after-school sports programs are unregulated, and have coaches who are not experts in their fields and have neither teaching experience nor qualifications to handle medical emergencies, Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, writes in The New Republic. Friedman, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna, calls for state action to certify youth coaches. Read more about her work on the HC Blog.

The new Medical Device Innovation Consortium, a partnership between the medical device industry and the Food & Drug Administration, is focused on improving regulatory science to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation in the private market, Michelle McMurry said at LifeScience Alley’s 2013 conference. McMurry, MD, PhD, is an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna, now with the FDA’s Center for Device and Radiological Health. “The federal government is many things, but it’s not set up to be quickly adaptable—but industry knows how to adapt,” she said.

Video slot and poker machines cater to gamblers who want to zone out or escape, Natasha Dow Schüll, PhD, MA, told The Oregonian. The machines are designed to lull players into a sense that they’re winning even as they slowly lose, by returning 60 to 90 percent of the money they drop into the machines. Schüll, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna, is author of Addiction by Design. “As one industry designer told me, some gamblers like to be bled slowly,” Schüll said.  Read more about her research.

Living in a single-parent household may have long-term health effects on Black men, according to a study by Debbie Barrington, PhD, MPH, covered by Reuters Health. Barrington, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna, found that Black men who had grown up in single-parent households had a 46 percent greater risk of developing high blood pressure. However, other childhood risk factors such as economic hardship may contribute as well, she said. The Reuters article was published in the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune,, and other outlets.

WESA-FM in Pittsburgh interviewed Patrick Sharkey, PhD, about his work on persistent forms of racial inequality spanning multiple generations. “We have to look at the environment in which Black and White Americans spend their lives and when you do that you see a different form of inequality,” Sharkey, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus, said.

Tags: Health & Society Scholars, Health Care Quality, Human Capital News, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Media Coverage, Nurse Faculty Scholars, Nurses and Nursing, Nursing, Scholars in Health Policy Research