Apr 24 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Markers for PTSD, inexcusable morbidity, nurse education, cigarette marketing, 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:

Neuroscientists at Harvard University studying trauma and the adolescent brain have identified markers that might help predict susceptibility to post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), New England Public Radio (NEPR) reports. Kate McLaughlin, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna, and colleagues were studying young people who’d been through serious adversity when the Boston Marathon bombing occurred. They surveyed some study participants who had already had brain scans about how much media coverage of the tragedy they’d watched and how they reacted emotionally, learning that children with certain neurobiological markers or previous trauma were more likely to report symptoms of PTSD. “The more that we can understand the neurobiological markers as well as the psychological and social markers ... the better able we’ll be to deliver early and effective interventions to prevent the onset of mental health problems,” she tells NEPR. Listen here.

“People think about asthma and think we must have a handle on it in the United States, but the grim reality is that most patients’ asthma in this country is uncontrolled,” David Van Sickle, PhD, MA, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus tells Nonprofit Quarterly in an interview. Van Sickle points to little progress in reducing asthma-related hospitalizations, and what he describes as “inexcusable morbidity” from the condition.  

RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna Jane Kirschling, RN, PhD, FAAN, is featured in Nurse.com on the importance of nurse education. “We’re the largest single group of health care providers in the United States, and we’re there 24-7, 365 days a year for the care that’s provided,” Kirschling said. “That’s in hospitals, community settings and long-term care settings. So, we have to make that commitment as a discipline and as professional nurses to continue to expand our knowledge and our critical thinking skills, and we do that through advancing nursing education.”

Chicago magazine features an interview with RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus Andrew Papachristos, PhD, on his new investigation into gun violence in Chicago. The RWJF Health & Society Scholar alumnus focuses on non-fatal gunshot injuries in the city. The magazine article credits Papachristos’ co-author and fellow RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus Christopher Wildeman, PhD. Their research explores the social networks linking people arrested for gun violence, finding that 70 percent of all non-fatal shootings occur in networks comprising less than 6 percent of the city’s population. Papachristos notes that violence is “super-concentrated within small networks” which should allow interventions aimed at preventing it to be “more directed and more precise.”

Spending on e-cigarette advertising, which is unregulated, tripled in one year—going from $6.4 million in 2011 to $18.3 million in 2012. The RTI International study was co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Annice Kim, PhD. “Our results suggest that federal-level efforts are needed to track e-cigarette advertising,” Kim tells Consumer Affairs. The same article highlights a study by Dartmouth researchers on young people’s exposure to direct marketing for traditional cigarettes. “For several years, the emphasis in the tobacco industry has been on direct marketing, especially to young people who are highly price-sensitive and who may find coupons, samples, and promotions appealing,” lead author Samir Soneji, PhD, says. Soneji is an RWJF Health& Society Scholars alumnus.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Nursing Dean Jean Giddens, PhD, RN, FAAN, discusses her experience as an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “That’s a high-intensity program that takes people who are already nursing leaders and enhances their leadership skills so they become more effective leaders. What they want us to do is ultimately be able to influence change for nursing and for health care,” Giddens says. She is leading the development of a Center for Quality Safety and Innovation at VCU.

CNN.com turned to Joseph Fins, MD, MACP, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, for comment on a study published in The Lancet on imaging techniques used to predict whether brain injury patients are likely to remain in a vegetative state or awaken. The study finds that positron emission tomography (PET) imaging is more useful in such predictions than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). “Just imagine,” Fins said, “these patients are conscious ... To be segregated from the community because you've been misdiagnosed is a tragic thing.”

A new law in Washington State requires doctors and nurses to have suicide-prevention training. Jennifer Stuber, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna, joined Gov. Jay Inslee on March 27 when he signed the law, KPLU (Seattle) reports. Her husband committed suicide three years ago, after seeing four medical professionals and mentioning thoughts of suicide to three of them. Read Stuber’s Human Capital Blog post.

An article in the Dallas Morning News about how family murders related to domestic violence affect children cites the 2007 report, Adult Perspectives on Growing Up Following Uxoricide, which estimated more than 4,000 children nationwide lose parents to domestic violence annually. “What I think is most striking is how little institutional attention there is to the matter, how every case is handled on an ad hoc basis,” said researcher Kathryn Laughon, PhD, RN, FAAN, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars alumna.

Research by Christopher Wildeman, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus, is featured in an Education Week blog. Wildeman co-authored the book, Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality. It reveals that a large number of children in the United States—including a much higher percentage of Black than White children—have witnessed a parent go to jail or prison. Serious behavioral problems can result.

Quasi-experiments or “natural experiments” could increasingly be used by scholars to gauge the effectiveness of possible solutions to environmental problems, according to an essay by Michael Greenstone, PhD, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus. He told Phys.org that, unlike conventional approaches, quasi-experiments are “based on nature or politics or some other accident, rather than being done through random assignment.” For example, Greenstone and colleagues looked at a region in China with very large increases in air pollution. They found the pollution was related to a rule that guaranteed free winter heating to residents living north of the Huai River, but not to those living south of it. The heating relied on coal combustion, and the resulting pollution correlated with sharp declines in life expectancy north of the river. Greenstone and colleagues maintain that such instances offer rich opportunities for gauging the impact of environmental policies.

Tags: Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Executive Nurse Fellows, HC Website Feature, Health & Society Scholars, Human Capital News, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Media Coverage, Nurse Faculty Scholars, Nurses and Nursing, Nursing, Research & Analysis, Scholars in Health Policy Research, Violence and Trauma