Category Archives: AcademyHealth

Jun 21 2012

AcademyHealth Q&A: Lisa Simpson

Lisa Simpson Lisa Simpson, AcademyHealth

AcademyHealth will hold its Annual Research Meeting in Orlando, Fla., next week. NewPublicHealth spoke with AcademyHealth president and CEO Lisa Simpson, MD, MPH, about the focus of the meeting, including a renewed focus on public health.

NewPublicHealth: What’s new this year?

Lisa Simpson: There is a lot new at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting. Working with our board over the last year we updated our strategic plan and public and population health is one of our topic areas of priority to which we apply our core purpose, which is to develop new knowledge and move research into action.

This priority is seen throughout the upcoming meeting. One of the themes this year selected by our planning committee is Prevention, Public Health and Population Health Improvement. The theme had the second highest number of abstracts submitted. As a result we have two to three sessions in every time slot related to public health and prevention. In addition we have policy round tables and methods sessions on the topic, as well as the Public Health Systems Research Interest Group meeting, which will be the best attended of the interest group sessions.

Another new thing we’ve done this year is to have a public health day and offer free registration to local public health leaders and practitioners. We will have 19 local public health practitioners joining us.

NPH: What will they get from attending, and how do you think attendees might benefit from having the practitioners at the meeting?

Lisa Simpson: They will give a lot of the real world perspective of the struggles they are facing in promoting the health of the public and delivering public health services in the state of Florida. The Florida budget is much stressed and there have been many challenges, so this is an opportunity to bring that reality to the research community. What the invited practitioners get is an updated understanding of what we’re learning about what works in public health, and about return on investment, and cost and benefit of public health services. In addition, they will learn about the focus on prevention and population health in sectors outside traditional governmental public health, such as the role of employers, many of whom are now working with government health agencies.

NPH: What do you think prompted the recent increased interest in prevention and public health?

Lisa Simpson: I think it’s a combination of several factors coming together, most prominently cuts in state budgets. And not just in public health, but all actors in the health system have to take very critical looks at the effectiveness of what they’re doing in order to improve efficiency and get the biggest bang for the public health dollar. That really focuses a laser beam on what services work for which communities in order to achieve particular aims. And we’re learning from research by leaders such as Glen Mays and others that investment in public health reaps a return on investment.

NPH: It’s a long list to choose from, but what’s another meeting highlight you’d point out?

Lisa Simpson: Just as we did last year, we’ll have an innovation station where people can see new data sets, applications and tools relevant to the field. And attendees will be able to use their smart phones to text their votes for best poster—poster authors will wear their numbers.

We want to make it substantive, diverse, enjoyable and dynamic for participants.

NPH: How will you address a decision by the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act during the conference?

Lisa Simpson: We’ve all been talking and thinking and prognosticating about what might happen. Fortuitously, we have a session scheduled for Tuesday morning, the third day of the meeting, with three experts, Sara Rosenbaum of George Washington University, Mark Hall of Wake Forest University Medical School and Tim Jost of Washington and Lee.

The session on Tuesday will go forward regardless of the decision. The reality is that health services research and health services and systems research are going to be critical to continue to provide the evidence base for the next steps, whether those next steps are implementing the Affordable Care Act or fashioning some other solution.

Feb 16 2012

Expanding the Breadth of Health Research Covered by the Media

Frakt Austin Frakt, The Incidental Economist

This week’s final plenary at the AcademyHealth annual National Health Policy Conference focused on the media’s role in health policy and featured Austin Frakt of The Incidental Economist (which is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), Ezra Klein of the Washington Post and Merrill Goozner of The Fiscal Times. Frakt, a health economist, touched on virtually all of the points the speakers made during the one hour session, in a post on his blog the day of the plenary. Most important perhaps was that researchers need to do more than just issue a press release in order to disseminate their results. “I encourage researchers to get involved on Twitter and blogs. Promote the work of the community when it is timely and relevant,” wrote (and said) Frakt. Ezra Klein, who has an extensive following, invited researchers to email him and not shy away because they think he might be inundated. “Let me manage my inbox,” Klein said.

NewPublicHelath spoke with Frakt about the role of social media in reporting critical health information.

NewPublicHealth: Your training was not in health. What did you do before and did you get into the health field?

Austin Frakt: My training is in physics and engineering. I went through a PhD program in electrical engineering at MIT, and although what I was really doing was kind of applied math, I recognized during my studies that I really was interested in questions pertaining to policy. So I did finish my PhD, and the math and the rigor of it was valuable. I was intrigued by [health policy work at Abt Associates] and that’s where I ended up. It wasn’t that I was, at the time, particularly drawn to health, I just wanted to do something in the policy direction and I was particularly drawn to a rigorous, mathematical kind of evidence-based study.

NPH: And what made you focus on health policy?

Read more

Feb 14 2012

Connection Between Health Care and Public Health: Q&A with Eduardo Sanchez

Sanchez Dr. Eduardo Sanchez

NewPublicHealth spoke with Eduardo Sanchez, MD, the chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and Chair of the Partnership for Prevention, at the AcademyHealth annual National Health Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. Dr. Sanchez shared his perspective on the intersection and potential opportunities for collaboration between public health and health care.

NewPublicHealth: How do you think public health is being redefined now?

Dr. Sanchez: I think the health system needs to be thought of as being made up of two interdependent components—public health and medical care—that traditionally have been thought of as two different systems. The reason is that a high quality, cost-effective health system that is going to achieve optimal health for all Americans, depends on appreciating that “public health” is important for a truly successful effort to optimize health.

NPH: Where does the responsibility lie for making the critical changes needed for public health?

Read more

Jun 17 2011

Public Health Spending Patterns and More: A Q&A with Glen Mays

Glen Mays, M.P.H., Ph.D, Professor and Chair and director of research for the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, is a key researcher in the field of Public Health Services and Systems Research. Dr. Mays presented new findings both during the Annual Research Meeting and at the Public Health Services Research Interest Group meeting that followed the larger meeting. NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Mays about the presentations.

NPH: What were your key presentations at the Annual Research Meeting?

Glen Mays: Two presentations I’ve made here at the meeting I think get at some critical issues in terms of better understanding the contribution of Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) to overall health. One is a follow-up to some work we’ve been doing looking at public health spending patterns. Our most recent analysis looked at the effects of investments in public health on medical care spending to find out whether enhanced investments in public health can help to bend the medical care cost curve and help to alleviate some of the challenges that we have with affordability of medical care.

NPH: Talk a little bit about the tenth anniversary. You’ve seen the field grow--what practical applications are you seeing from the decade of research into PHSSR?

Mays: Well, I think we are really seeing a convergence now between the resources being produced in the research community and the demand and information needs of practitioners and policy makers to actually use that research. We are now seeing opportunities for using research and evidence to help inform practice and policy decisions. A good example is the current economic climate which is forcing some difficult choices--both in the policy level and the practice level --about what kinds of services to deliver and how to operate more efficiently.

NPH: What was your focus at the Interest Group meeting?

Mays: I spoke about our practice-based research networks--and looking at those networks as a mechanism for taking research findings and moving them into practice. So we’re studying the research process and our findings suggest that these networks, that bring together researchers, scientists, and practitioners, are actually helping to speed up that flow of information from research into decision-making in public health. We did a study with our initial cohort of five networks and looked at the membership of those networks. We surveyed over two hundred organizations that are part of those networks and looked at their engagement in the research process and their utilization of information that flows out of the research projects.

NPH: What is the best PHSSR question that anyone has asked you at this meeting?

Mays: I think one of the best questions that I’ve heard relates to how we define the public health delivery system and what are the attributes that make a system function as a coordinated system that address population health issues? That’s a question that we’ve danced around conceptually for a long time and we’re starting to think about how to better define and act on--and ultimately, improve the system aspects of public health.

For more, read a guest post by Glen Mays on Economic Shocks and Public Health Decision-making: How Can Research Help?

Read previous Q&As with newsmakers and difference makers in public health.

Jun 15 2011

AcademyHealth: A Q&A with Paul Erwin and Bridget Booske

Public Health Systems Research is the discipline that examines the organization, financing, and delivery of public health services and the impact of those activities on population health. The AcademyHealth PHSR Interest Group, which has grown to over 2,000 members, marked its tenth anniversary this week with a series of panel discussions about the field. NewPublicHealth spoke with two key presenters: Paul Erwin, M.D., co-principal investigator of the National Coordinating Center for PHSSR at the University of Kentucky; and Bridget Booske, senior scientist at University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institutes and deputy director of the County Health Rankings.

NewPublicHealth: What did your presentation highlight?

Paul Erwin: I’m talking about health coalitions and in particular, examining health coalitions from the perspective of their being the organizing corollary for a local public health system. That’s important because health and health outcomes are the result of a number of different complex factors and if we want resolve these major problems, they can’t be solved by one entity alone. It’s all of the organizations, and individuals and entities that impact the health of the public at the community level.

NPH: And what is your current focus at the National Coordinating Center for PHSSR Research?

Paul Erwn: I’m working on providing a practical perspective on research, on the translation of research. In the last few months, we’ve gathered a working group together of people who have experience in the practice and academic worlds to answer questions such as who is successfully translating research into practice, how is it being done, what are the barriers, best practices and models for how we can support the practice world in this key area.

Taking this focus has importance in several key areas such as public health accreditation [which will launch in the fall of 2011.] One of the standards for accreditationhas to do with advancing new knowledge. The work we’re doing now at the Center has implications regarding improving the practice world’s capacity to deliver on this particular standard.

NPH: Bridget, what research did you present to the Interest Group?

Bridget Booske: The work is on media response to the release of the County Health Rankings in 2010, which is very important in terms of trying to engage broad segments of the community. The media is a key resource for reaching other stakeholders. We learned that we got very broad coverage in the better resourced communities, so we have to get more media coverage in less resourced communities. It’s harder to reach small media, but we need to keep working at it.

NPH: In what ways is the media coverage of the County Health Rankings important?

Bridget Booske: We want the media to continue to help us with the initial coverage, of the County Health Rankings, but we also have found that follow-up stories and letters to the editor to continually get the message out will only helps us improve the health of the community.

And it’s not just about getting the governmental public health folks, to write those letters and op-eds; we’ve had pretty attention grabbing op-eds from other key players such as hospital CEOs and head of local chambers of commerce. That’s great. We want to get other voices in there as well.

NPH: What input are you looking forward to from research colleagues at the PHSR Interest Group meeting?

Bridget Booske: I’m looking forward to getting input from other researchers in terms of how we really assess what we’re doing with the County Health Rankings. We have a logic model that says we’re trying to get attention from the media and have people use the information toward broad community attention and then to in turn implement evidence-based policies. We know we can get the media and we need researchers to help us with the rest of the logic model and ultimately to help improve what we do.

Read previous Q&As with newsmakers and difference makers in public health.

Jun 15 2011

Article on Legal Underpinnings of Emergency Preparedness Wins AcademyHealth Interest Group Award

Effective management of modern public health emergencies requires coordinated efforts of multiple agencies representing various disciplines.

That’s the focus of the paper “Achieving Public Health Legal Preparedness: How Dissonant Views on Public Health Law Threaten Emergency Preparedness and Response” that won the award for Article of the Year at the Public Health Services Research Interest Group at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting.

The author, Anda Botoseneanu of the University of Michigan, argues that organizational culture differences between public health and emergency management entities can impact vital collaboration across agencies.

Botoseneanu and her colleagues conducted over 140 interviews with officials at both public health and emergency management offices and found conflicting approaches to law. The authors say the public health approach is characterized by a perceived uncertainty regarding legal authority over preparedness planning tasks, an expectation for guidance on interpretation of existing laws and concern about individual and organizational liability. The emergency management approach was found to have a perception of broad legal authority, flexible interpretation of existing laws and ethical concerns over infringement of individual freedoms and privacy.

Botoseneanu concludes that distinct interpretations of preparedness law interfere with effective collaboration and that clarification of legal authority mandates and guidance on interpretation of current federal and state laws are needed.

Dr. Botoseneanu’s paper was selected for its “contribution to the understanding of public health systems, its new insights into the field of Public Health Services and Systems Research and for its potential to advance the field and change current thinking,” said Debra Perez, M.A, M.P.A, Ph.D., interim Assistant Vice President for Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funds the interest group.

For more information on the topic, the Public Health Law Network and the Public Health Law Research Program, both funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have published work on legal issues surrounding emergency preparedness.

Jun 14 2011

Smartphones: A New Tool for Population Heath Surveys

Could the rocketing use of smartphones be a boon for population health surveys? Trent Buskirk, an associate professor of biostatistics at the St. Louis University School of Public Health, thinks so.

At a panel about Innovations in Population Health Surveys at AcademyHealth's Annual Research Meeting, Buskirk noted that the opportunity to use smartphones for surveys is increasing now that 85 percent of U.S. households have a cell phone--and 37% of those cell phones are smartphones.

Added to the opportunity is the increasing use of health care apps that many consumers are now using which creates a data collection opportunity. Survey researchers could ask app developers for data, such as how many people downloaded a smoking cessation app.

Buskirk says the prevalence of apps also give researchers a model for a survey tool for smartphones, since so many users have now become accustomed to app functionality.

Buskirk and colleagues conducted a small study that invited computer users already members of an online panel that responded to surveys to reply to a new survey either by computer or iPhone. Buskirk says important findings included:

  • Fewer incomplete questions, which is a common problem with most surveys
  • Loading time for the first screen on the iPhone takes about a half a second longer than on the computer, which is important to know “because if respondents get aggravated they might drop the survey all together,” says Buskirk
  • Surveys may need programming more sophisticated than just questions to support app-like experiences
  • Smartphone surveys may be especially useful for hard-to-reach or specialized populations. For example, 61 percent of physicians, Buskirk says, now use an iPhone.
  • Smartphone surveys will likely need a “save” option, rather than just a submit button. Buskirk says one responder was in a helicopter while responding and some participants took four days to complete the survey because they work on multiple things simultaneously. “You’ll lose responders if they move to another task and then have to start the survey from scratch” he noted
  • Developers will need a new way to track how long people spend on each survey, since a smartphone user population may not complete the questionnaire in one sitting
  • Smartphones can also be used by survey professionals in the field, perhaps by downloading data from tracking devices participants use such as how many steps they take or how often they monitored glucose levels.

Weigh In: How long would you spend on a smartphone answering a survey?

Jun 14 2011

Research Priorities in Women's Health: A Q&A with Carolyn Clancy, M.D.


A key session at this week’s AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting focused on research priorities in the women’s health agenda. Several organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, and the Institute of Medicine have been assessing progress in women’s health research and have identified strategies for promoting advances.

One of those focusing on the women's health agenda is Carolyn Clancy, M.D., director of the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, who was a presenter at the session. NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Clancy about opportunities in women's health for rethinking how the clinical care system and public health system work together.

NewPublicHealth: Why is there a current focus on the women’s health agenda?

Dr. Carolyn Clancy: Women in this country tend to live longer than men, but sicker. They are more likely to have chronic illnesses, multiple illnesses, and frankly to have the social determinants of health stacked against them in terms of income and education. A startling proportion of women over 65 are dual eligible--eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, largely because of income. And what that means is that no matter how you look at chronic illness, not only do they have more of it, but they tend to have more severe chronic illnesses. This is an area where I think there is a huge opportunity for rethinking how the clinical care system and public health system work together.

NPH: What’s needed—new research topics or more information on the topics that are known?

Dr. Carolyn Clancy: Good question. Every place I go people in health care tell me they feel like the ground is shifting beneath their feet. We want to shift from doing more stuff to more quality. I don’t think we can get to where we need to be unless we rethink our efforts. Where can clinical health do better, where can public health do better, and how do we reinforce each other’s efforts. It’s not just more, more, more. So far, on the quality side, which has a good overlap on population health, we’ve taken an approach of keep doing what you’re doing but add on these activities. Now I think we need to rethink that, particularly for chronic illness.

NPH: And how does that happen?

Dr. Carolyn Clancy: That’ s the big question and there is no clear path. It’s likely to look different in different communities and regions of the country. At AHRQ, we have a site called AHRQ Innovations Exchange that encourages collaboration. It’s about people sharing their experiences in rethinking what’s needed ahead.

Read previous Q&As with newsmakers and difference makers in public health.

Jun 13 2011

AcademyHealth and Public Health Services and Systems Research: A Q&A with Debra Perez


Public Health Services and Systems Research is a featured topic at the 2011 AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting in Seattle this week. Additionally, the AcademyHealth Public Health Services Research Interest Group will soon be holding its tenth anniversary meeting to share findings on topics including health disparities and best practices for public health systems.

To discuss the state of the PHSSR field, NewPublicHealth spoke with Debra Perez, Interim Assistant Vice President for Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who is a key presenter at the AcademyHealth ARM this week.

NewPublicHealth: Tell us about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s investment in Public Health Services and Systems Research.

Debra Perez: The Foundation has been investing in PHSSR since about 2004. We started our investment with support of the AcademyHealth PHSR Interest Group, as a matter of fact. That brought together about forty or so researchers to the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting. Subsequent to that, we expanded our work to broaden a connection with the practitioner community. The Interest Group meeting has grown to over 100 today. And our work has expanded with AcademyHealth as well to include training and support for people interested in doing PHSSR work.

Beyond that, we have done extensive work with the University of Kentucky, which heads the National Coordinating Center for PHSSR. Under them we have collaborated on data harmonization with three membership organizations of public health: the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers; the National Association of County & City Health Officials; and the National Association of Local Boards of Health. All of these organizations conducted profiles biannually or whenever they could get funding. So some of our investment in PHSSR was about stabilizing the funding source for these very critical data sets.

Our work has also included annual solicitations for investigator-initiated projects in PHSSR. We went from a $75,000 grant in 2004 to about a $60 million investment today.

NPH: AcademyHealth refers to Public Health Systems Research, while the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation refers to Public Health Services and Systems Research. Why is that?

Debra Perez: We felt it was important to include services in the definition. We didn’t want people to think of systems as something abstract. It was under the leadership of Jim Marks, senior vice president and group director of health of RWJF and formerly of the CDC. Jim pointed out that we wanted people to know what we meant by connecting systems to services. What we mean is that when you study food safety or vaccine programs or other issues under public health, it’s important to look at the infrastructure, workforce, governance, finance and general organization to better understand the quality of those services.

NPH: The Academy Health Public Health Services Research Interest Group is celebrating its tenth anniversary. What kind of growth in participation have you seen?

Debra Perez: The number of participants at the annual meeting has grown to over 100, but that’s just in-person. They have a broad electronic network of close to 1,500 . These ten years have been growth years, a burgeoning field that continues to grow and blossom. And we’re very proud of that.

NPH: You’ll be discussing the PHSSR research agenda at this meeting?

Debra Perez: Yes, there will be an opportunity to weigh in at the Interest Group meeting and we’ll also vet the research agenda at the upcoming NACCHO meeting and we’ll be looking for additional vetting opportunities.

NPH: How was the agenda developed?

Debra Perez: It has been a deliberate, exhaustive process to determine the research agenda in the four content areas: infrastructure, finance, data and technology, and workforce. Each group participated in at least two webinars and we did an exhaustive and systematic review of the literature, and this research agenda is identifying gaps. We hope to complete it by the end of the summer.

Read previous Q&As with newsmakers and difference makers in public health.

Jun 13 2011

Social Media and Technology Are Key Topics at AcademyHealth Meeting

Creating an agenda on your smart phone? An app development challenge? Using Twitter feeds as study data? All this and more was highlighted at the opening day of the AcademyHealth Annual Research meeting yesterday in Seattle.

Embracing innovation in approach and technology was a key focus of AcademyHealth CEO and President Dr. Simpson’s opening remarks to the meeting attendees.

“While AcademyHealth and the field we represent enjoy broad support and respect among those who know us well, there remain significant opportunities to educate policymakers about the work we do and its impact,” Dr. Simpson said.

Strategies to achieve this impact, said Dr. Simpson, include remaining relevant by embracing innovations and new opportunities.

The keynote speaker for the opening session was Molly Coye, M.D, M.P.H., Chief Innovation Officer at the UCLA Health System. Coye said new technologies are important because they support engagement, not just dissemination.

A key example she noted was an observational study conducted by patient members of a community called PatientsLikeMe. Following publication of a small study showing that lithium might slow down symptoms of ALS, patient members created their own observational trial to see if the drug would help them.

Although they weren’t able to replicate the earlier study results, the PatientsLikeMe data was published in Nature Biology, a peer-reviewed journal. Said Coye: “This has the potential to change who pays for research – prompting industry, foundations and providers who need information to support it and to generate new tools and sources of information.”

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