Jun 19 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Debt and health, tax exemption controversy, peer influence on adolescent smokers, 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:

In the context of the Obama administration’s efforts to ease student loan debt, TIME reports on a study by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Elizabeth Sweet, PhD, that explores the toll debt takes on the borrower’s physical health. Past studies have focused on mental health issues, TIME writes, but Sweet’s research links debt not just to mental health, but also to high blood pressure and general health problems. Sweet says the problem has long-term implications. “These health issues are a warning for more health problems down the road,” she says, “so we have to think about this as a long-term phenomenon.” Forbes also highlights her research.

A Medscape story about a study that shows a direct correlation between vaccinating health care personnel against influenza and reducing cases of flu in the community quotes Mary Lou Manning, PhD, RN, CPNP, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna. “We now actually have evidence indicating that higher health care worker vaccination rates in hospitals are having a community effect; they’re actually resulting in lower rates of influenza in the community. That’s remarkably exciting,” says Manning, who is president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. The article is available here (free login required).

Modern Healthcare reports on federal efforts to address concerns about tax exemption for certain nonprofit hospitals, citing research by Gary Young, JD, PhD, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. In order to obtain tax-exempt status, the Affordable Care Act requires nonprofit hospitals to track and report the charity care and community benefits they provide. Young found wide variation in the contributions of nonprofit hospitals. “The current standards and approach to tax exemption for hospitals is raising concerns about a lack of accountability for hospitals,” he says, and creating problems because “hospitals don’t really know what’s expected of them.” The Internal Revenue Service has proposed a rule to address the issue. (Free registration is required to view the article.)

Two CBS affiliates in Montana, KPAX in Missoula and KXLH in Helena, carried a story on the Montana Center to Advance Health through Nursing (MT CAHN) statewide nursing education summit, held June 19. “I think that they’re the ones who really make the difference for you as a patient because nurses are the only ones [who] surround you 24-7, no matter what setting you’re in,” MT CAHN co-lead Cynthia Gustafson, PhD, RN, said in the piece. MT CAHN is part of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a joint effort of AARP and RWJF that is implementing recommendations from the Institute of Medicine’s report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.

A recently launched three-year study led by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus Richard Pilsner, PhD, MPH, will investigate the possible influence of phthalate exposure on human sperm quality and embryo development. Phthalates are found in plastics and personal care products and can be detected in nearly 100 percent of the U.S. population, News Medical reports. “What we’re asking, basically, is whether dad’s environmental health contributes to reproductive success, and if so, how is that transmitted to offspring?” Pilsner said.

A study by Christopher Wildeman, PhD, shows that by the time they reach age 18, about 12 percent of American children have experienced a confirmed case of maltreatment in the form of neglect, or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. “Confirmed child maltreatment is dramatically underestimated in this country. Our findings show that it is far more prevalent than the 1 in 100 that is currently reported,” Wildeman tells Latina Lista. Wildeman is an alumnus of the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program.

“Social influence matters” when it comes to adolescents and smoking, but more when it comes to pressure to start smoking than to quit, says Steven Haas, PhD, MS, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumnus, in Medical Xpress. The “impact is asymmetrical,” he says. “[T]he tendency for adolescents to follow their friends into smoking is stronger.” Haas explains that to become a smoker, adolescents need to learn how to smoke, obtain cigarettes, and arrange not to get caught—all things smoking friends can teach them. Nonsmoking friends would be less likely to have access to resources that would help friends successfully quit, which could include nicotine replacement products and information about support groups.

In a piece about free distribution of diapers to low-income families, the Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington) features a study of almost 900 women in Connecticut that found a strong link between diaper shortages and mothers’ rates of stress and depression. The study was co-authored by RWJF Community Health Leader Joanne Goldblum, who observes that past research found that the children of parents with high levels of stress or depression “are at greater risk for social and emotional and behavioral problems. It has a far-reaching effect in terms of child development,” Goldblum says.

In the context of the accident that injured comedian Tracy Morgan, KARE 11 (Minnesota) interviews RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumnus Michael Howell, MD, MPH, for a video segment on how sleep deprivation can impact driving skills. The video is available here.

Ted Gayer, PhD, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus, continues to receive coverage for his work on climate change regulation, this time from Fortune. Gayer pens an article in which he poses questions about the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations to reduce carbon emissions.

Tags: Community Health Leaders, Executive Nurse Fellows, Future of Nursing, HC Website Feature, Health & Society Scholars, Health Disparities, Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, Media Coverage, Nursing, Physician Faculty Scholars, Public and Community Health, Research & Analysis, Scholars in Health Policy Research