Mar 6 2014

RWJF Scholars in the News: Nurse staffing and patient mortality, communicating about vaccines, specialized HIV training for NPs, 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 study led by Linda H. Aiken, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, RN, and covered by, finds that hospital nurse-patient ratios and the share of nurses with bachelor’s degrees both have an important impact on patient mortality. Aiken, a research manager supporting the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action and a member of the RWJF Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) National Advisory Committee, found that increasing a hospital nurse’s workload by one patient increased by 7 percent the likelihood of an inpatient death within 30 days of admission. The same research revealed that a 10-percent increase in the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees at a given hospital reduces the likelihood of a patient death by 7 percent. Aiken’s study has also been covered by the Guardian,, and FierceHealthcare, among other outlets.

Public health messages aimed at boosting childhood vaccination rates may be backfiring, according to a new study led by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus Brendan Nyhan, PhD. Campaigns that use studies, facts, and images of ill children increased fears about vaccine side-effects among some parents, NBC News reports. In fact, messaging that debunked myths about links between vaccines and autism actually made parents less inclined to have their children inoculated. Time magazine online also covered the study.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing has developed a new curriculum that provides specialized HIV training to nurse practitioners, with funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Medical Xpress reports. “The design of our program starts with the recognition that HIV care cannot be provided in a silo, that it needs to be integrated holistically into primary care," RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, said in a statement. Farley is the developer of the curriculum.

Nationally, only 12 percent of parents without insurance coverage take breastfeeding support classes, according to a University of Michigan poll on children’s health, reports Medical Xpress. By comparison, nearly 30 percent of parents with insurance take classes, according to researcher Michelle Moniz, MD, an RWJF Clinical Scholar. She concludes that the cost of such classes might simply be beyond the reach of many parents without insurance.

Psychiatric News profiles RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Helena Hansen, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of anthropology and psychiatry at New York University. Hansen combines her passion for both subjects in her exploration of social influences on drug addiction and recovery. As part of that work, she leads two group therapy programs for patients in recovery. One group stages one-act plays for the community, and the other produces video documentaries about its members’ lives.

Live Science features two RWJF scholars commenting on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed changes to nutrition-labeling requirements. “[I]t’s certainly a step in the right direction,” said RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus Jason Block, MD, MPH. If food manufacturers were required to provide calorie information for an entire food package, some companies might downsize “to avoid those sticker-shock numbers that you might see on a bag of chips,” Block observes. “It’s very easy to scan a label and not realize there are multiple servings,” added RWJF Health & Society Scholar Christina A. Roberto, PhD. “This really simplifies things ... You don’t have to do that extra math.”

Nurses at UK HealthCare in Kentucky were recently ranked first in a national patient satisfaction survey covering 102 academic medical centers that are part of the University Health Consortium, according to the Lane Report. “Our strategic agenda of quality, safety, and service is foundational,” said Colleen Swartz, DNP, MSN, MBA, chief nurse executive for UK HealthCare and an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna.

The Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina) highlights research by RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Greg Duncan, PhD, that found “the single most important factor in predicting later academic achievement is that children begin school with a mastery of early math and literacy concepts.”

In a New York Times opinion piece, RWJF Investigator Award recipient Suzanne Mettler, PhD, writes that the high cost of a college education has undone much of the post-World War II transformation of higher education from the “bastion of privilege” that it was before the G.I. Bill to “a path toward the American dream.” She writes, “Higher education is becoming a caste system, separate and unequal for students with different family incomes.”

In a humorous look at the decision of some states not to take part in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart features an interview with RWJF Health Policy Fellow Harry Heiman, MD, MPH, in which he discounts arguments against expansion often made by politicians.

Tags: Clinical Scholars, Executive Nurse Fellows, HC Website Feature, Health & Society Scholars, Health Policy Fellows, Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Media Coverage, Nurse Faculty Scholars, Nurses and Nursing, Nursing, Public and Community Health, Research & Analysis, Scholars in Health Policy Research