Category Archives: Health & Society Scholars

Apr 24 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Markers for PTSD, inexcusable morbidity, nurse education, cigarette marketing, and more.

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:

Neuroscientists at Harvard University studying trauma and the adolescent brain have identified markers that might help predict susceptibility to post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), New England Public Radio (NEPR) reports. Kate McLaughlin, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna, and colleagues were studying young people who’d been through serious adversity when the Boston Marathon bombing occurred. They surveyed some study participants who had already had brain scans about how much media coverage of the tragedy they’d watched and how they reacted emotionally, learning that children with certain neurobiological markers or previous trauma were more likely to report symptoms of PTSD. “The more that we can understand the neurobiological markers as well as the psychological and social markers ... the better able we’ll be to deliver early and effective interventions to prevent the onset of mental health problems,” she tells NEPR. Listen here.

“People think about asthma and think we must have a handle on it in the United States, but the grim reality is that most patients’ asthma in this country is uncontrolled,” David Van Sickle, PhD, MA, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus tells Nonprofit Quarterly in an interview. Van Sickle points to little progress in reducing asthma-related hospitalizations, and what he describes as “inexcusable morbidity” from the condition.  

RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna Jane Kirschling, RN, PhD, FAAN, is featured in Nurse.com on the importance of nurse education. “We’re the largest single group of health care providers in the United States, and we’re there 24-7, 365 days a year for the care that’s provided,” Kirschling said. “That’s in hospitals, community settings and long-term care settings. So, we have to make that commitment as a discipline and as professional nurses to continue to expand our knowledge and our critical thinking skills, and we do that through advancing nursing education.”

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Apr 18 2014
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Subsidized Health Insurance May Lower Poverty, But We Don’t Measure It

Brendan Saloner, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar in residence at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.

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In these early days of the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate has begun to sharply decrease. One recent estimate suggests 5.4 million adults gained insurance coverage in the first quarter of 2014. The Congressional Budget Office projects that enrollment in Medicaid and the health insurance Marketplaces will increase even more rapidly over the next two years.

The importance of increased health insurance coverage for improved access to health care justifiably receive much of the public’s attention, but the impact of coverage on the financial health of families may be equally important. Subsidized health insurance can increase the disposable income of families by freeing up money that was previously used to pay out-of-pocket for doctor’s visits and prescription drugs. Newly insured individuals also benefit from the risk-protection of health insurance since even people who use little or no health care are at risk of unexpected accidents or newly diagnosed diseases.

A recent study in Oregon that compared adults who received free health insurance through a lottery to those who applied but did not receive the free care found that the “winners” were much less likely to say that they needed to cut back on necessities to pay for health care. They also had much less medical debt and a lower likelihood of receiving a notice from a collection agency.

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Apr 18 2014
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New on the RWJF Website

Two stories on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) website report on new research by RWJF scholars.

An Incentive for Healthier Living: RWJF Scholars Find a Stronger Link Between Obesity and Kidney Disease

Vanessa Grubbs, MD, MPH, and Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, both alumnae of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (AMFDP), have discovered that obesity appears to be a driver of diminished kidney function, independent of a number of common kidney conditions. This suggests that overweight patients could face kidney troubles even if they avoid hypertension, diabetes, or other such conditions. The researchers also found that the standard measure used to gauge kidney function might miss early signals of deterioration that a more sensitive test can detect. This suggests that clinicians could identify emerging problems in otherwise asymptomatic patients, and help steer them toward healthier habits early in life.

Reducing Adolescents’ Risky Behaviors

New studies from RWJF scholars seek early markers for substance abuse, explore young adult sleep patterns, and gather data on health care providers’ counseling. RWJF Health & Society Scholar Julie Maslowsky, PhD, and colleagues found that mental health problems in eighth graders are a likely marker for subsequent substance abuse issues. In a separate study, Maslowsky’s research team studied the sleep patterns of more than 15,000 teens, because getting too little or too much sleep is related to a number of mental and physical health problems, including depression and anxiety. The same story reports on a survey by Aletha Akers, MD, MPH, an AMFDP alumna, examining the counseling health care providers give to parents of adolescent patients. The topics parents most frequently recalled discussing were the ones least associated with adolescent morbidity.

Apr 17 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Education levels and bone fractures, nursing research, hospital choice, and more.

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:

Social class may have a significant bearing on the likelihood that middle-aged African American and Asian women will suffer bone fractures, a new study suggests. Co-author Rebecca Thurston, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna, found that current income level or ability to pay for care is not associated with bone-fracture risk. However, educational levels among minorities, which the authors note are tightly associated with socioeconomic status, are directly related. This suggests that socioeconomic status over the entire course of a woman’s life is more relevant to bone health than current income status, Health Canal reports.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports on the importance and value of nursing research. Nursing “really looks at the whole person. So we consider the physiological issues in terms of health problems, as well as psychological components, which is a big part of any health problem,” Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of the RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program, tells the Dispatch. “We also are very concerned with vulnerable populations, ending health inequalities. Some of our nurse scientists, including some of the Nurse Faculty Scholars, are actually doing physiological research in the lab, but they are very concerned with how that translates to the bedside and to the community.” 

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Apr 16 2014
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A Behind the Scenes Look at a Documentary Series on Climate Change

Sabrina McCormick, PhD, is a sociologist, filmmaker, and an associate professor of environmental and occupational health for the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program.

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The first episode of Years of Living Dangerously, a new documentary series exploring the human impact of climate change, aired last Sunday on Showtime. I worked on the series as associate producer and producer, but I am also a scientist who has been studying the impact of climate change on human health for almost a decade. In all that time, I’d developed a good grasp of what climate change looks like from a scientific point of view. But working on the series made me learn a lot more about what climate change looks like, not just here in the United States but worldwide.

This documentary television series consists of nine episodes featuring star correspondents as they meet experts and visit ordinary people who have lived through extreme weather events triggered by climate change. James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger served as executive producers of the series, along with former 60 Minutes producers Joel Bach and David Gelber. I worked with Matt Damon on an upcoming segment about heat waves and with Michael C. Hall on another story focusing on Bangladesh, a nation already vulnerable to extreme weather.

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Apr 10 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Electronic health records, nurse mentoring, ‘longevity gaps,’ and more.

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:

The California Action Coalition has developed a mentorship program that is helping prepare the next generation of nurses to serve as leaders on health care reform. The state’s mentorship program dovetails with the 2014 leadership focus of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a national effort backed by RWJF and AARP that is working to transform health care through nursing. “Mentoring is key to strengthening any leader,” Mary Dickow, MPA, tells Nurse Zone. “Having strong mentors in my life helped me think differently and advance. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.” Dickow is statewide director of the California Action Coalition.

A recent interview in the Atlantic with David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, has generated numerous comments from readers weighing in on the merits of electronic health records (EHRs). Blumenthal is former national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. He points out in the interview that EHRs offer “substantial” benefits for patients, but notes that in the short-term, providers incur significant costs and that it will take time to make the transition to EHRs. The Atlantic has now published several articles highlighting reader comments, which can be found here, here, and here. FierceEMR published a story about the give-and-take, which notes that many of the commenters who are skeptical about the value of EHRs are physicians.

RWJF Health & Society Scholars program University of Wisconsin-Madison Site Director David Kindig, MD, PhD, appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Washington, D.C.’s WAMU radio to discuss the “longevity gap,”—the growing gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. Kindig and other guests explore how health care reform and policies to address income inequality might affect the gap.

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Apr 3 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Medical debt disparities, nurses providing primary care, technologies that maximize time with patients, and more.

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:

In a study of women diagnosed with breast cancer, RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna Reshma Jagsi, MD, PhD, found that Black and Latina patients were more than twice as likely as White patients to have medical debt and to skip treatments due to concerns about costs. Jagsi tells Reuters that “our findings suggest that racial and ethnic minority patients appear to be more vulnerable, as are those who are too young to qualify for Medicare, those who lack prescription drug coverage, those who reduce their work hours after diagnosis, and those with lower household income at the time of diagnosis.”

Expanding nurse practitioners’ role in primary care could help meet new demands on California’s health care system, as millions of previously uninsured residents gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to Susan Reinhard, RN, PhD, senior vice president of the AARP Public Policy Institute. “We should make sure that the nurse practitioners can use every ounce of their talent for what is needed,” she tells the AARP Bulletin. “Consumers should have a choice of different clinicians who will suit their preferences and their needs.” Reinhard is chief strategist for the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a partnership of AARP, AARP Foundation, and RWJF and co-director of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.

At a recent information technology summit, Ann O’Brien, MSN, RN, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow, discussed her work with Kaiser Permanente to leverage new health care technology to maximize nurses’ valuable time providing patient care. O’Brien explains that “you have to look at what can enable small amounts of change,” because saving seconds with each repeated use of rapid sign-on technology, for example, can mean gaining extra minutes in a day for a nurse to provide direct care, FierceHealthIT reports.

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Apr 2 2014
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RWJF Milestones, April 2014

The following are among the many honors received recently by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, grantees and alumni:

Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF’s senior advisor for nursing and director of its Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, has been named co-chair of the newly formed External Nurse Advisory Board (ENAB) for the Center for Nursing Advancement (CFNA) at UnitedHealth Group. The goal of the ENAB is to “inform, create and evolve nursing best practices, and advance the nursing profession.”

Angelina Jolie has signed on as executive producer of Difret, a film by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Mehret Mandefro, MD, MSc, AB. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award, then went on to receive the Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. The film tells the story of a young Ethiopian girl who challenges the tradition of “telefa,” the practice of abduction in marriage, usually of young girls. Read more about Mandefro’s film.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has voted Juliann Sebastian, PhD, MSN, its president-elect. Sebastian, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna, is dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing. She will serve as president of AACN from 2016 to 2018. The organization represents more than 740 nursing schools nationwide.

RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Jacqueline Stevens, PhD, has been named a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow for the Humanities. Her fellowship is in U.S. History.

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Mar 27 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Cultural barriers to care, medical conspiracies, parenting, and more.

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:

In a Talking Points Memo opinion piece, Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program alumna Paloma Toledo, MD, MPH, writes that while the Affordable Care Act holds the promise of greatly increasing access to care, language and cultural barriers could still stand between Hispanic Americans and quality care. Toledo’s research into why greater numbers of Hispanic women decline epidurals during childbirth revealed that many made the choice due to unfounded worries that it would leave them with chronic back pain or paralysis, or that it would harm their babies. “As physicians, we should ensure that patients understand their pain management choices,” she writes.

More than one in three patients with bloodstream infections receives incorrect antibiotic therapy in community hospitals, according to research conducted by Deverick J. Anderson, MD, an RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumnus. Anderson says “it’s a challenge to identify bloodstream infections and treat them quickly and appropriately, but this study shows that there is room for improvement,” reports MedPage Today. Infection Control Today, FierceHealthcare, and HealthDay News also covered Anderson’s findings.

People’s health and wellness can be linked to their zip codes as much as to their genetic codes, according to an essay in Social Science and Medicine co-authored by Helena Hansen, MD, PhD. As a result, Hansen argues, physicians should be trained to understand and identify the social factors that can make their patients sick, HealthLeaders Media reports. Hansen is an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna.

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Mar 20 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: ADHD medication, reconstruction after mastectomy, care for returning veterans, and more.

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:

NBC News reports on a surge in the number of young adult women taking ADHD medication. An RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient, Stephen Hinshaw, PhD, explains that the rise in diagnoses among women in that age group may be evidence of failure to recognize the problem when the women were children. They may not have manifested symptoms as visibly as their male classmates with ADHD did, turning their distress inward rather than misbehaving in class, for example.

“How people with mental disorders are viewed by treatment providers and the general public can have a significant impact on treatment outcomes and the quality of life of clients,” Jennifer Stuber, PhD, and colleagues write in a study reported by Health Canal. The researchers presented vignettes about people with mental health problems to mental health providers and the general public, and compared their reactions. Providers had more positive attitudes, but some held views about the danger such patients might pose in the workplace that the researchers called “concerning.” Stuber is an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna.

More women are having breast reconstruction after mastectomies, USA Today reports. As a result of a 1998 federal law, most group insurance plans that cover mastectomies also cover breast reconstruction. Researchers found that the share of women who received reconstruction after mastectomy rose from 46 percent to 63 percent between 1998 and 2007. Author Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, an RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna, says the law could be contributing to the increase. The study was also covered by 9 News (Denver) and WKYC.com (Cleveland), among other outlets.

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