RWJF Scholars in the News: Stereotype threat, hand hygiene, misbehaving science, 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:
Anxiety caused by “stereotype threat” could help explain health disparities that persist across race, suggests research co-authored by Cleopatra Abdou, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna. News Medical covers the study, describing it as the first of its kind to empirically test, in the context of health sciences, the impact of the “threat of being judged by or confirming a negative stereotype about a group you belong to.” Abdou’s research offers a possible explanation for ethnic and socioeconomic differences in morbidity and mortality between Black and White women because, as Abdou says, the research goes beyond nature vs. nurture, “bringing situation and identity into the equation.” For example, in the study, Black women with a strong connection to their race had the highest anxiety levels when in waiting rooms filled with posters that displayed negative health-related racial stereotypes dealing with such topics as unplanned pregnancy and AIDS.
Having health insurance improves access to medical care for pregnant, low-income women, and results in long-term health benefits for their babies, according to a study by RWJF Scholar in Health Policy Research Sarah Miller, PhD, and RWJF Health & Society Scholar Laura Wherry, PhD, that was reported by Vox. Miller and Wherry found the expansion of Medicaid in the 1980s made prenatal care much more accessible to low-income women, many of whom would otherwise have been without insurance. The result was improvements in obesity, preventable hospitalizations, and preventable, chronic disease-related hospitalizations among children.
A new study emphasizes the importance of proper hand hygiene to prevent the spread of health care-associated infections, reports Health Canal. RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Allison Aiello, PhD, MS, and her colleagues offer a series of evidenced-based best practices for optimal hand hygiene in health care settings, encouraging increased availability and acceptability of certain soap and alcohol-based rubs as well as the development of a system to empower health care personnel to create a personalized hygiene system that tracks their progress.
In his book Misbehaving Science, Aaron Panofsky, PhD, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research program alumnus, explores the controversial path by which eugenics, the study of “improving” human genetics, morphed into “behavior genetics” in the years after World War II. The New Scientist raves about Panofsky’s “wonderful insight” into the science, which he describes as afflicted with “persistent, ungovernable controversy.”
MSNBC.com carries a piece exploring the history of health researchers blaming mothers for their children’s diseases. The article touches on Sigmund Freud’s view that “castrating” mothers produced “neurotic” sons, as well as the view held during the 1930s and 1940s that “refrigerator mothers” caused autism among their children by being cold and distant. The article draws a link to current discussions about the ways the “actions, life choices, and genetic patterns” of mothers today “shape the health histories of their offspring.” Amy Non, PhD, MPH, an alumna of the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program, is quoted, making the point that fathers contribute to children’s genetics, as well.
Health & Society Scholars program alumni Amar Hamoudi, PhD, and Jenna Nobles, PhD, continue to receive coverage for their research showing that female embryos are better equipped to survive stressful pregnancies. The result, they conclude, is that people in stressful relationships are more likely to give birth to girls than boys. Time magazine reports on the study.