AcademyHealth Q&A: Lisa Simpson

Jun 21, 2012, 7:01 PM, Posted by

AcademyHealth will hold its Annual Research Meeting in Orlando, Fla., next week. NewPublicHealth spoke with AcademyHealth president and CEO Lisa Simpson, MD, MPH, about the focus of the meeting, including a renewed focus on public health.

NewPublicHealth: What’s new this year?

Lisa Simpson: There is a lot new at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting. Working with our board over the last year we updated our strategic plan and public and population health is one of our topic areas of priority to which we apply our core purpose, which is to develop new knowledge and move research into action.

This priority is seen throughout the upcoming meeting. One of the themes this year selected by our planning committee is Prevention, Public Health and Population Health Improvement. The theme had the second highest number of abstracts submitted. As a result we have two to three sessions in every time slot related to public health and prevention. In addition we have policy round tables and methods sessions on the topic, as well as the Public Health Systems Research Interest Group meeting, which will be the best attended of the interest group sessions.

Another new thing we’ve done this year is to have a public health day and offer free registration to local public health leaders and practitioners. We will have 19 local public health practitioners joining us.

NPH: What will they get from attending, and how do you think attendees might benefit from having the practitioners at the meeting?

Lisa Simpson: They will give a lot of the real world perspective of the struggles they are facing in promoting the health of the public and delivering public health services in the state of Florida. The Florida budget is much stressed and there have been many challenges, so this is an opportunity to bring that reality to the research community. What the invited practitioners get is an updated understanding of what we’re learning about what works in public health, and about return on investment, and cost and benefit of public health services. In addition, they will learn about the focus on prevention and population health in sectors outside traditional governmental public health, such as the role of employers, many of whom are now working with government health agencies.

NPH: What do you think prompted the recent increased interest in prevention and public health?

Lisa Simpson: I think it’s a combination of several factors coming together, most prominently cuts in state budgets. And not just in public health, but all actors in the health system have to take very critical looks at the effectiveness of what they’re doing in order to improve efficiency and get the biggest bang for the public health dollar. That really focuses a laser beam on what services work for which communities in order to achieve particular aims. And we’re learning from research by leaders such as Glen Mays and others that investment in public health reaps a return on investment.

NPH: It’s a long list to choose from, but what’s another meeting highlight you’d point out?

Lisa Simpson: Just as we did last year, we’ll have an innovation station where people can see new data sets, applications and tools relevant to the field. And attendees will be able to use their smart phones to text their votes for best poster—poster authors will wear their numbers.

We want to make it substantive, diverse, enjoyable and dynamic for participants.

NPH: How will you address a decision by the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act during the conference?

Lisa Simpson: We’ve all been talking and thinking and prognosticating about what might happen. Fortuitously, we have a session scheduled for Tuesday morning, the third day of the meeting, with three experts, Sara Rosenbaum of George Washington University, Mark Hall of Wake Forest University Medical School and Tim Jost of Washington and Lee.

The session on Tuesday will go forward regardless of the decision. The reality is that health services research and health services and systems research are going to be critical to continue to provide the evidence base for the next steps, whether those next steps are implementing the Affordable Care Act or fashioning some other solution.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.