Category Archives: 40th Anniversary

Oct 26 2012
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Berwick Calls On Foundations To Bring Civility In U.S. Health Care Debate

By B. Japsen

Saying the divisive political environment has “confused medical professionals,” former Medicare administrator Dr. Donald Berwick Friday called on nonpartisan health foundations to spur civility in the effort to improve health and health care in the U.S.

In a keynote address at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) 40th Anniversary Connections conference, the former Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Washington is polarized and little change can be made by government policy-makers.

 In some cases, Berwick said topics like end-of-life care and medical research used effectively in other countries cannot even be discussed in Washington. Meanwhile, agencies like the one he ran as well as the Food and Drug Administration are limited statutorily in their work such as the inability to consider cost comparisons in whether a product can be used or covered.

“A consequence of all of this disarray, and maybe the most costly consequence, is a loss of the shared exploration to discover solutions to the problems we face,” Berwick told attendees in his speech on the last day of the two-day meeting. “We are trying to make health care a human right in America. Curing health care is going to take everybody.”

Unlike elected officials divided by politics, Berwick said nonpartisan foundations like RWJF and others have the ability to spur change. He cited, as one example, RWJF’s role over the last two decades in the area of smoking cessation programs that have educated the public and curtailed cigarette use across the country.

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Oct 25 2012
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Election Outcome Aside, Health Care System Needs To Be Innovative To Address Fiscal Challenges

By B. Japsen

No matter the outcome of the general election, the health care system faces “systemic change” that will be driven by daunting fiscal challenges that will force states and medical care providers to be innovative in how they deliver more cost-effective care.

A panel of health care policy experts at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) 40th Anniversary Connections conference said that major financial challenges related to the “fiscal cliff” and deficit reduction faced by the next Congress and White House will likely require health care leaders and states to find new ways to deliver medical care.

The policy experts, led by RWJF chairman and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, said the expected close election will leave either a re-elected President Obama or Gov. Romney with no mandate to make substantial change. Meanwhile, he and other panelists said there will continue to be a lack of consensus in Congress, forcing change to come from state governments and the health care system at large.

 “We are facing a series of very difficult decisions,” said Sheila Burke, co-director, health project, Bipartisan Policy Center. 

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Oct 25 2012
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Leaders In Public Health & Health Care Urged To Move Beyond Silos

By B. Japsen

Public health and health care advocates and leaders need to move beyond their “silos” as patients and consumers change how they get and digest information, attendees at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) 40th anniversary “Connections” Conference were told Thursday.

Jay Walker, chairman and chief executive of the TEDMED global community, along with the audience of conference attendees, admitted to challenges for public health experts to get their message out as well as the inability to work effectively with those in health care that provide medical care services.

“We need to learn from each other,” Walker said. “We need to become more generalists. If we don’t figure out how to bring organizations together in new ways, we are going to miss the boat.”

Consumers are already turning away from traditional communication like newspapers and the Rolodex to communicate and reach the public toward Facebook and digital forms of social media. These changes are fueling a trend of patients and consumers “self-treating and self-medicating” leaving leaders in public health and health care with the challenge of coordinating their efforts to make sure consumers understand what they get is accurate and effective.

“We are in silos,” said Shelley Hearne, managing director of Pew Health Group, who was picked from the audience to participate on an impromptu panel during Walker’s talk on “Powerful Connections . . Hiding In Plain Sight.”

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Oct 25 2012
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RWJF 40th Anniversary "Connections" Conference: To Get Health Messages To The Public, Tell Stories

By B. Japsen 

If the public, patients and political leaders are to better understand health and health care, they need to hear stories.

That was the message to public health and health care leaders from Dr. Richard Besser, a public health expert and chief health and medical editor at ABC News in his keynote address to open the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) 40th anniversary “Connections” Conference.

Health and health care can be complicated and medical care providers and public health workers should do more than provide information and data even if it is contrary to what they were taught in medical school or schools of public health.

In Besser’s case, he is an epidemiologist who said he was taught to “discount anecdotes” and explain public health through data. Yet, when a story is told on television, that does not always work, he said.

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