Mar 1, 2021, 12:00 AM, Posted by
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Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in July 2020.
A Personal Journey
It's hard to describe water to a fish while it’s swimming in it. I was that fish, growing up in a working-class, majority Black community in southwest Ohio. For instance, it hadn’t occurred to me to question why my school had metal detectors and armed police officers at every entrance yet so few textbooks that students had no choice but to share. Or why we had to travel to find affordable fresh vegetables while unhealthy food nearby was as easily accessible as payday loans and other predatory financial products. Having unmet needs was normal in these waters.
I was in high school when I began wondering why there were so many of these unmet needs in my community. An invitation to a cancer research conference hosted at a neighboring public school was an eye-opening experience. The school was one of the top-ranked in the state, nestled in a wealthy neighborhood with a well-stocked grocery store and multiple banks within walking distance.
These waters were different.
That sense of unfairness filtered into my own life from another angle. I attended a school with limited resources which meant that opportunities within the school were offered to only a few. Since my mother was a powerful advocate for my education, I had access to after-school activities and advanced placement classes while friends living on the same block did not. That bothered me too.
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Jan 29, 2021, 10:45 AM, Posted by
Anita Chandra, Carolyn Miller
Measuring health and the social and economic factors that influenced it before the pandemic helps us understand the kind of risks the nation faced previously. It can also inform how to move forward toward recovery.
2020 was arguably one of the most difficult years in American history, challenging our resilience and surfacing enduring and systemic challenges to our collective health and well-being. As we continue to measure the pandemic’s impact on short- and long-term health, as well as other social and economic indicators, it is useful to note where we stood pre-pandemic. Understanding the conditions and trends that shaped our health before COVID-19 helps us assess whether the systems now being tested to respond to COVID-19 are robust.
Last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), along with the RAND Corporation, shared an update on the national set of measures that we have been using to track our journey toward a culture where every person has a fair and just opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. The goal of the Culture of Health measures is to offer signals of change with a focus on broader social and economic drivers of health, well-being, and equity, as well as the role all sectors play in influencing health outcomes. Developing a clearer picture of what is changing (or not) via the Culture of Health measures is useful for directing investments and identifying where, as a nation, we need to make progress.
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Aug 31, 2020, 9:45 AM, Posted by
COVID-19 has magnified deep-rooted barriers to health and opportunity—particularly in Black, Latino, and tribal communities. Leaders from these communities shed light on how we can shape an equitable and just recovery.
In the almost seven months since the novel coronavirus national emergency was declared, we’ve witnessed how it has magnified centuries-long inequities that have created deep-rooted barriers to health and opportunity in communities of color and tribal communities.
At the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, my colleagues and I know the first step to action is knowledge. We cannot address the disparities the coronavirus has brought to light without first understanding the data, challenges, and historical context at play.
Through conversations with six leaders from Black, Latino, and tribal communities, we examined the inequities the pandemic has exacerbated and explored strategies and solutions for where we can go from here. Three lessons emerged from these conversations that can inform an equitable response and recovery.
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Jun 23, 2020, 10:45 AM, Posted by
William H. Dietz
Research suggests that obesity leads to greater risk of becoming severely ill from diseases such as COVID-19. How can we address health disparities that contribute to obesity to better protect our children from future public health crises?
Among the many lessons emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic is the impact of obesity. People with obesity and associated diseases tend to become sicker and are more likely to die when COVID-19 strikes.
We know childhood obesity is a powerful predictor of obesity in adulthood. It puts children at increased risk for developing numerous health problems later in life, including diabetes and heart disease. In addition to these chronic diseases, early research suggests that obesity may also increase their susceptibility as adults to serious illness like COVID-19.
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Apr 16, 2020, 9:45 AM, Posted by
An acclaimed author reflects on the startling connections between her fictional story on a pandemic and our current reality.
In the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) first-ever book of fiction, Take Us to a Better Place, published earlier this year, Dr. Karen Lord and nine other writers use the power of fiction to help us imagine paths that may lead to a healthier, better place for all--and those that may lead us astray.
In her short story The Plague Doctors, Dr. Lord envisioned what life on a small island during a pandemic might look like. Now, she reflects on foreseeing some of today’s challenges and solutions in her latest blog post. (The Plague Doctors has been selected as one of 2021’s Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy stories.)
Note: The following post originally appeared on the William Temple Foundation Blog and has been republished with permission.
Last year, I was asked to write a story about the future of health. Speculating about the future is my job, but for something this specific and important, I asked Dr. Adrian Charles to be my advisor for all things medical. We chose that perennial favourite of history and fiction—a pandemic—never guessing that within weeks of the story’s publication, history would become present, and fiction real life.
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Jul 12, 2018, 2:00 PM, Posted by
We’ve come a long way in reducing tobacco use, but we can save millions of lives and advance health equity by doing even more.
Although smoking rates have dropped by more than half over the past 50-plus years, tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States.
And not everyone has benefited equally from reduced rates in smoking—there are deep disparities in tobacco use and quit rates, depending on where people live, how much money they make, and the color of their skin.
Tobacco products disproportionately harm people with lower incomes and less education; people with mental illness and substance use disorders; people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT); and racial and ethnic minorities.
What’s causing these inequities? Part of it is marketing. Tobacco control efforts have not focused on closing racial, ethnic and socio-economic gaps. In fact, we know that the tobacco industry targets certain populations—women, people who are black or Latino, and members of the LGBT community—with higher levels of marketing, exposing them to more tobacco product ads.
In addition, people in many of these groups are less likely to have health insurance—and, as a result, less likely to have access to smoking cessation products and services.
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Apr 26, 2018, 11:00 AM, Posted by
The 20th United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams joined RWJF President and CEO Rich Besser to discuss how the power of partnerships can help transform communities and advance equity.
As a child, the United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, suffered from asthma so severe that he spent months at time in the hospital, even once being airlifted to a children’s hospital in Washington, D.C. During these stays he was struck by the fact that he’d never encountered a black physician. That finally changed when as an undergraduate he met a prominent African-American doctor who had overcome his own significant life obstacles. Seeing another African-American making important contributions to the field of medicine inspired the young Jerome Adams to decide, “I can do that too.”
With that resolve, he embarked on a path that led to becoming an anesthesiologist and culminated in his appointment as the nation’s 20th surgeon general.
Reflecting on his journey, Dr. Adams notes, “that’s why your efforts at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) are so important. You’re providing mentorship and leadership opportunities to those who wouldn’t otherwise know how to navigate the world of public health.”
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Oct 12, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by
Psychologist Alia Crum’s research reveals that the way we think about our health can change our health outcomes. She explains the surprising ways mindsets influence health, and how we can use them to improve well-being.
Three days before my regional gymnastics meet in Arkansas I landed awkwardly on a practice vault, clashing my inner ankle bones. The pain was excruciating—as was the prospect of an injury crushing my dream of competing nationally. I was determined to go on, so I decided to adopt the mindset that I could mentally overcome my physical injury. I diligently iced, taped and tended to it while visualizing myself making it to nationals in spite of the setback.
I competed and placed high enough to qualify, and was elated as well as surprised by how little the pain had affected me. Another surprise: An x-ray the next day showed that my ankle had been broken.
My experience at age 10 shows the power of mindset—the frame of mind through which we perceive, interpret, and organize an inherently complex world. The ability to make sense of the world through our mindsets is a natural part of being human. But the mindsets we hold are not inconsequential. In fact they change reality by influencing our attention, affect, motivation, and physiology. I had decided my injury wasn’t going to influence my performance, and almost impossibly, it didn’t.
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