Human Capital Network: Weight gain and depression in adolescent girls, talking about genetic markers for cancer, the cost of diapers, and more.

Aug 1, 2013, 9:21 AM

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:

RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Maria Katapodi, PhD, RN, FAAN, has developed a program to help women at high genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer share the news with family members, who might also be at risk, reports. The “Family Gene Toolkit” program pairs patients with a genetic counselor and an oncology nurse to discuss how and why to reveal the results of a positive genetic test to family members.

A study led by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Rebecca Thurston, PhD, finds that menopausal women tend to underestimate how often they have hot flashes and night sweats, Medical XPress reports. Treatment for these "vasomotor" symptoms (VMS) is tailored to patients’ self-reported data, meaning the current approach may be underestimating the burden on women. “While very common in menopausal women, hot flashes and night sweats can disrupt a woman's quality of life significantly,” Thurston said. “In order to test new treatments, we need to be sure we are assessing a woman's VMS as accurately as possible.”

RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna Cynthia Crone, MNSc, APN, CPNP, spoke to the Kansas City Star about a $24 million outreach effort underway in Arkansas to inform residents about how to sign up for coverage in the state’s insurance marketplace, when open enrollment begins October 1. Crone leads the Arkansas Insurance Department's Health Benefits Exchange Partnership division.

In discussing Medicare’s new hospital-payment system that takes patient satisfaction scores into account, Lisa Rosenbaum, MD, an RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar, wrote in the New Yorker: “Though there are several factors informing the general likability of physicians beyond how we feel about what they tell us, there is no reason to assume we would be somehow immune to this cognitive bias when it comes time to rate them.”

Weight gain and obesity are significant risk factors for depression in young women transitioning to adulthood, according to a study led by Health & Society Scholar Michelle Frisco, PhD, MA. “Clinicians who notice substantial weight gain in female patients transitioning from adolescence to early adulthood may want to probe these patients about their mental well-being,” Frisco told Healio.

RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus John Cawley, PhD, spoke to the Chicago Tribune about his research on the implications of rising obesity on military recruitment. Enlistment numbers are stable, Cawley says, but if the country ever needed to mobilize quickly and expand the size of its military, obesity rates could pose a challenge.

A recent study that found nearly 30 percent of women have some sort of unmet diaper need for their children is not surprising, RWJF Community Health Leader Joanne Goldblum told CNN’s The Chart blog. Goldblum is founder and executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, which distributes diapers free to families through a network of social service agencies, churches, and educational institutions. “When I started the diaper bank, I started as a social worker,” she says. “I saw families re-using diapers. I saw them take the diaper off, dab the solid and put the diaper back on. Or hang the diaper up to air it out and re-use it.” Read a post Goldblum wrote for the RWJF Human Capital Blog.

In a story about annual lists of “Best Hospitals,” Clinical Scholars alumnus Nicholas Osborne, MD, MS, told the New York Times, “Those ratings have become more important for hospital marketing than for actually helping patients find the best care… The two biggest rating systems come up with completely different lists. What does that tell you?”

RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Frank Levy, PhD, continues to receive media coverage for a paper he co-authored on the kind of education needed to prepare workers for 21st-century jobs, particularly as technology advances and jobs are lost to automation. The New York Times is among the outlets to report on the paper and its recommendations.

An educational game designer, writing for the Huffington Post, cites research by Investigator Award recipient Greg Duncan, PhD, as a catalyst for the creation of a pre-K math game. Duncan’s research found that pre-kindergarten mathematical knowledge is the highest predictor of later academic success, far outweighing other early learning skills.

The Tampa Tribune cites a study led by Health & Society Scholars alumnus Jeff Niederdeppe, PhD, MA, that finds people who have more exposure to television ads for prescription drugs are 16 to 22 percent more likely to receive a diagnosis of high cholesterol. They also are more likely to be prescribed statins.

Health & Society Scholars alumnus Patrick Sharkey, PhD, spoke to the Huffington Post about President Obama’s "White House Office of Urban Policy," now called the Office of Urban Affairs. “The Office of Urban Affairs is [an] example of a grand idea that was implemented in a half-hearted way, and then lost its momentum over time,” Sharkey said.

Matt Wray, PhD, MA, an alumnus of the Health & Society Scholars program, wrote a piece for The Society Pages about the origins of the stigmatype “white trash.” He writes: “The stigma of white trash remains an active part of our fevered cultural imagination, even as some try to reclaim the phrase as a badge of rebellious honor. But few who use the term today—either proudly or as a shaming slur—seem to know about its deep historical entanglements with the politics of sex, race, and class.”

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.