Scholars Explore a Variety of Population Health Issues

Health & Society Scholars

Field of Work: Building the field of population health.

Problem Synopsis: Although the United States spends more for medical care than any other country in the world, it ranks poorly on many indicators of health and well-being. Although experts know that medical care has a limited impact on the health of populations, 95 percent of spending on health in the United States between 1994 and 1998 went to medical care, with 5 percent allocated to population-wide approaches to improving health.

Synopsis of the Work: In 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars® program to build the field of population health by producing leaders who will change the questions asked, the methods used to analyze problems and the range of solutions offered to improve the health of all Americans.

Selected Results: The Scholars' work included:

  • "Buffet: All You Can Eat, Las Vegas" is a 30-minute documentary about excess and waste in contemporary American life. Anthropologist Natasha Schull, Ph.D., produced the documentary as a Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University (2003–2005), contributing to work on obesity by considering two areas that have received scant attention from researchers.
  • Clinical health psychologist Rebecca Clark Thurston, Ph.D., studied differences between women and men in the association between socioeconomic position and heart disease during her fellowship at Harvard University (2003–2005).
  • As a Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin (2006–2008), Jeff Niederdeppe, Ph.D., examined sociodemographic correlates of fatalistic beliefs about cancer prevention and their associations with exercise, smoking and fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Douglas Jutte, M.D., M.P.H., studied how often primary care providers identified psychosocial problems in Latino children.
  • Sociologist Patrick Sharkey, Ph.D., a Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University studied the impact on children of living in poor neighborhoods.