Category Archives: Research
The annual Keeneland Conference kicked off today, where more than 300 public health services and systems researchers (PHSSR), public health officials and policy-makers have convened to discuss the latest issues in this growing field of research. PHSSR is aimed at establishing an evidence base to allow public health officials to make smarter, more-informed decisions with regard to resource allocation, staffing, operations and service provision.
NewPublicHealth is on the ground in Kentucky to capture the critical conversations and Q&As from leaders in the field. We spoke with F. Douglas Scutchfield, MD, director of the National Coordinating Center for PHSSR and the Peter Bosomworth endowed faculty in the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, to get his take on where the PHSSR field stands and the anticipated highlights of conference.
NewPublicHealth: What are the critical areas for public health as you head into the Keeneland Conference?
Dr. Scutchfield: I think there are several agendas that will be a backdrop against which Keeneland is taking place. One is a reformed healthcare system, with the Affordable Care Act and its implications for public health and public health’s relations with a variety of other service delivery systems, such as primary care and hospitals.
We will also see the rollout of a new research agenda, published as a supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine,that will give us a new direction to pursue in terms of how we’re going to begin to try improving the infrastructure in the public health system.
NPH: What has been your sense in speaking with colleagues in the field about what kind of research is most in demand for public health leaders and decision-makers right now?
A new report released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-sponsored Institute of Medicine Committee on Public Health Strategies to Improve Health calls for significant reforms to refocus America’s public health system toward prevention of the chronic diseases that are taking a toll on the nation’s health and economy.
The report, For the Public’s Health: Investing in a Healthier Future, is the final in a series that is intended to help guide efforts by public health leaders, policymakers and other stakeholders to address the nation’s health challenges in the 21st century and beyond. The committee’s 10 recommendations include one that is focused on setting national targets for life expectancy, and another on establishing a basic array of programs and services that would enable every health department to provide a standard level of health protection in the communities they serve. The committee also recommended creating a stable, dedicated funding source. They favored a medical care transactions tax, and examined other taxes as well as less traditional funding sources such as community benefits, social investment bonds and collaboration with community development financial institutions.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Marthe Gold, MD, MPH, chair of the report committee and professor and chair of the Department of Community Health and Social Medicine at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education of City College, and Steven Teutsch, MD, MPH, vice chair of the committee and Chief Science Officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, about the committee’s recommendations.
>>Read our earlier Q&A with Marthe Gold on the second report in the IOM series, titled For the Public’s Health: Revitalizing Law and Policy to Meet New Challenges.
NewPublicHealth: What’s the big picture on the committee’s report and the recommendations around public health financing and how do you hope it will be used?
Today is Diabetes Alert Day. Sponsored by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) , the goal of the day is to encourage Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
The test includes questions on weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors for prediabetes or diabetes. According to the ADA, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 8.3 percent of the population, have diabetes. About 7 million of those are undiagnosed. Read more on diabetes prevention.
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?
Public Health Law Research (PHLR), a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program at Temple University, recently held its annual meeting in New Orleans. The theme of this year’s meeting, the first such conferences open to non-grantees of the program, was "Public Health Law Targets of Opportunities." The conference offered an opportunity to highlight research about how law can be used to improve population health. Read full NewPublicHealth coverage of the PHLR conference here.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Scott Burris, JD, director of the Public Health Law Research program.
NewPublicHealth: What’s key about this year’s conference?
Scott Burris: This is a transitional conference for us. We have been planting the orchard for the last two and a half years since we started the program. Now we are starting lot get some fruit. Our grantees are reporting on their results. And we’re getting as many paying people coming to the conference as we have new grantees coming to the conference.
NPH: Needle exchange is a key topic at the conference this year. Why is that?
**UPDATE: The results are in!
The top five most influential RWJF research articles of 2011 (including one of NewPublicHealth's picks!) have been announced:
Tied for #5
Read the original post below.**
Your vote counts—and not just when it comes to American Idol. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has released its list of top 20 most influential research articles of 2011, and it's up to the voting public to determine the "Final 5." RWJF-funded articles covering topics that range across the Foundation’s program areas were chosen based on the significance and strength of their research findings and popularity as measured by online views.
Public voting to select the "Final 5" most influential articles of the year opened last week, and will end December 23 at midnight. The final tally will be released in early 2012.
As you throw your vote in the virtual hat, keep a few key criteria in mind:
- whether the research articles guided the field of policy and practice;
- whether the research influenced how the public thinks about health and health care issues; and
- whether the research changed long-held perceptions of the health field.
We at NewPublicHealth have a few public health favorites among the top 20—but we leave it to you to judge their merit for yourself! Here are our top public health research picks:
- Measuring the Health of Communities (article #7): The authors of this article, published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice in September, note that the health of each person is inextricably linked to the health of their community, and in this article they examine the complexities of trying to measure community health. The authors look at how measurement of community health has changed over time, including newer frameworks like the County Health Rankings, developed by the University of Wisconsin and RWJF. The authors argue that a priority on measuring community health will help us to better allocate scarce resources.
- Health Impact Assessments are Needed in Decision Making About Environmental and Land-Use Policy (article #15): Urban land use, transportation and environmental decisions can have important consequences for the public's health. This article looks at the emerging practice of health impact assessment and its critical role in assessing the health effects of decisions across sectors, such as the potential impact of highway air pollution on proposed housing for seniors. The article was published in Health Affairs last May.
Other articles in the top 20 include a look at the role of social factors like stress and exposure to lead in racial disparities in hypertension (article #4), the use of Twitter to track flu outbreaks (article #5) and the effect of school policy on student consumption of sugary drinks (article #16).
The Chicago Sun Times is reporting this morning that a second set of tests done on Enfamil Premium Newborn infant formula by its manufacturer Mead Johnson found no trace of the bacteria tied to the death of a ten-day-old Missouri baby.
Hospital tests show that the baby died of a rare infection caused by a bacteria called Cronobacter sakazakii. The source of the bacteria hasn't been determined, but it can be found in powdered formula, and the baby had been given the Enfamil product. Retailers have taken a batch of the formula off their shelves and the Food and Drug Administration and the Missouri Department of Health are investigating the baby’s death. Get more food safety updates.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to help translate scientific discoveries into new drugs, diagnostics and devices. NIH Director Francis Collins says the new center will significantly speed up the availability of tested discoveries, making them available to patients. Read more research news.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced a new working definition of recovery from mental disorders and substance use disorders. SAMHSA and partners in the behavioral health field and beyond worked on the definition over the course of a year. SAMHSA took on the quest for the working definition as part of its Recovery Support Strategic Initiative.
SAMHSA now defines recovery as: "a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential." Read more mental health updates.
In response to burgeoning national interest in using health impact assessment (HIA) as a tool to factor health into policy decisions, the Health Impact Project and other leading health organizations will convene a first-ever National HIA Meeting on April 3-4, 2012, in Washington, D.C. Policy-makers, public health professionals, community-based organizations, researchers and elected and appointed officials from across the country will hear the latest on how HIA is being and can be used to inform policy decisions outside health in areas such as planning, transportation, housing, agriculture, energy, education and the environment.
The meeting is being organized by The California Endowment, the National Network of Public Health Institutes, and the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Visit the National HIA Meeting website for additional information about the meeting and guidelines for the submission of abstracts and scholarship applications.
- Learn more about the Health Impact Project, a national initiative designed to promote the use of HIA as a decision-making tool for policy-makers.
- Read an interview about the National Research Council Report on HIA with Pamela Russo, M.D., M.P.H., a senior program officer at RWJF.
For the fifth year, close to 400 researchers, practitioners and policymakers will come together in Lexington, Ky., to share innovative ideas on how to improve the public health system. The conference will take place April 17 to April 19, 2012, and will continue the conversation on the impact of specific public health strategies on the quality and performance of the United States public health infrastructure. The conference also provides an opportunity to share new research that will allow decision-makers to more efficiently use scarce resources to organize, finance and deliver services through the public health system.
Speakers at this year's conference include Harvey Fineberg, MD, MPP, PhD, President of the Institute of Medicine and Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The call for abstracts is open now through January 9, 2012 at 3 p.m. ET. Questions regarding submission guidelines should be sent to the national program office (email abstracts@publichealthsystems. org).
Learn more about the Keeneland 2012 Conference.
>>Read more about public health services and systems research.
Robert Kaplan, PhD, the director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the National Institutes of Health was a recent keynote speaker at the mHealth Summit that focused on new mobile technologies for tracking and potentially improving health behaviors. NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Kaplan about these early days of the mHealth industry and research needed to support the field.
NewPublicHealth: What's the contribution of mHealth to thestudy of health outcomes?
Robert Kaplan: It allows us to bring the laboratory to people. For a lot of years we have had to study people under laboratory conditions. Mobile technology can let us study people in the environments in which they live. For example, a simple question such as, on average, how much pain have you experienced over the last thirty days, requires memory over thirty days and we expect them to remember equally across those days and then ask them to average that. We think responses to that question are not meaningful. But, with a little electronic device, people can be asked how much pain they’re experiencing right then, at predetermined or random intervals over 30 days, and that would be more meaningful data.
Other uses include epidemiologic studies. We often ask people to recall what they ate over the last 24 hours. If I had to do that, my recall of what I ate and portion size would not be that accurate. Now people can use a cell phone to photograph their various meals, which are then analyzed for protein, calories, carbohydrates and fat. It’s not as good as it will be, but it can store the data and give a history that shows what a person is eating and how that might impact their health. Other uses of mHealth technology include satellite technology that tells us how much people move as they travel around their community, which helps estimate whether certain parks are designed for more physical activities that others.
NPH: Are you concerned about overpromise when it comes to mHealth?