Now Viewing: Pioneer

Building Big Data, One Swab at a Time

Mar 14, 2013, 2:00 PM, Posted by Nancy Barrand

Watch PBS NewsHour's feature, "Researchers Aim to Unlock Genetic Data Goldmine for Vital Medical Information," on the Kaiser biobank to learn more about how Catherine Schaefer, Neil Risch and 200,000 Kaiser members are accelerating the pace of medical research and bringing the future potential of genomics into the here and now.

When the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the Pioneer Portfolio, my colleagues and I asked ourselves what fields might produce the greatest potential game-changers for health and health care. Genomics was at the top of the list. The human genome had been mapped and fantastic discoveries had begun to blossom, but a true era of personalized medicine still seemed too far off.

So we set out to do what Pioneer does best. We explored and learned. We networked.  We asked a lot of questions.  And we began to hunt down ideas.

On March 12, PBS NewsHour did a feature story on one of the big ideas that came out of that process: the world’s largest, deepest, and most diverse “biobank.” It presented a good opportunity to share the backstory. 

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Heritage Open mHealth Challenge: Searching for a Sum Greater Than Its Parts

Mar 4, 2013, 3:14 PM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves Christine Nieves

“Smart” phones are rapidly becoming ubiquitous; almost half of all American adults own one. Every one of those phones has the potential to be a health companion for its owner, providing reminders about pills to take or tips about healthier foods to eat. Phones can also collect valuable health data—such as the quality of the air we breathe or the number of steps we walk. For people with a chronic disease such as diabetes, a smart phone can track the kinds of meals that spike their blood sugar or the side effects of their medications; it can even relay that information back to a doctor, who can then help patients better manage their health.

To date, the major tool for harnessing the power of mobile technology has been the app. Just like there are apps for weather, news, or restaurant reviews, there are apps for health. They can do amazing things, from measuring and monitoring, to imaging and predicting. But, there aren’t just a handful of them—there are thousands! And, that’s where the Heritage Open mHealth Challenge comes in.

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New Call for Proposals: Pioneering Use of Behavioral Economics

Mar 4, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Lori Melichar

Lori Melichar Lori Melichar

We have announced our second Call for Proposals in the field of behavioral economics. We’re actively seeking ideas that will help us to better understand how to discourage the consumption of low-value health services — those that provide more harm than benefit or which provide only marginal health benefits. In addition to improving health outcomes, this knowledge could contribute to lowering health care costs for us all.

Behavioral economics is an area of study by which I’ve personally grown increasingly intrigued and in which the Foundation has recently begun to invest.  We all know, for example, that we need to exercise, eat right and be actively engaged in our own health care. But we don’t always do what we know we should do; knowing the “right” decision to make does not guarantee that we make that decision. The goal of behavioral economics is to uncover insights that could enable people to make better — more “rational” — choices for their health.

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Happiness is Hot

Apr 30, 2012, 9:15 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini Paul Tarini

Happiness is gaining currency today, particularly in relationship to health and medicine. That’s what we’ve been hearing ever since Harvard School of Public Health researchers Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky published their report “The Heart’s Content: The Association Between Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Health” in the Psychological Bulletin, under a grant from Pioneer. This is the first study of its kind to look closely at how positive psychological well-being—including happiness and optimism—plays a role in heart health.

The story was indeed hot – gaining attention from USA Today, The Huffington Post, TIME’s Healthland blog, WebMD, The New York Times’ Well Blog, ABCNews.com, MensHealth.com, ModernHealthcare.com, Oprah.com, and hundreds more – and being shared throughout social networks and on the web.

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New Evidence Continues to Build the Field of Positive Health

Apr 17, 2012, 4:10 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini Paul Tarini

Today, the Psychological Bulletin published research by Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky from the Harvard School of Public Health suggesting that positive psychological well-being – such as life purpose, positive emotion, life satisfaction, happiness and optimism – can help protect against and slow the progression of heart disease.

Prior research in this area has focused on how risk factors like anxiety and depression are associated with cardiovascular disease. But this study is the first of its kind to consider how a health asset –psychological well-being – plays a role in heart health.

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