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Round-Up of Foundation News—Bioethics, Environmental Health



May 11th, 2010

In today’s post I have pulled together a few items showing some foundation efforts in two areas: bioethics and environmental health.

Bioethics

The Arizona Bioethics Network is being relaunched. Saint Luke’s Health Initiatives (SLHI), a public foundation in Phoenix, is providing core funding. The network is “being reconfigured as a community of practice focused on ethical issues in health care related to practice, policy and education,” SLHI said in April 2010. The network’s Web site points out, “With a small but growing core group of bioethicists and bioethics programs in Arizona, an expanding health care industry, and ever more contentious ethical issues of resource allocation and cost-benefit, there is a clear need to collaborate across institutional settings and professional roles and create a true learning network to develop and support an ethics healthcare agenda in the state.”

Initially, the network will focus on supporting hospital ethics committee members and reaching out to long-term care facilities with education and information on such topics as hospice and palliative care. This will include “end-of-life decision making, individual autonomy and the role of surrogates.” Carol Lockhart has been named project director. A consultant with C. Lockhart Associates, “a health systems relations and policy-consulting firm,” she also is a professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Nursing, in Memphis.

I asked Carol Lockhart if she were aware of similar networks in other states, and she said that she believed the Arizona one is somewhat unusual in that it is “independent and foundation-based”; most of the others she has heard of are in a university setting, where they are part of a medical or bioethics program. She emphasized, though, that she has not done extensive research on systems in other states.

Related resources:

Bioethics Forum, a blog that is a free service of the Hastings Center Report, “publishes thoughtful commentary, from a range of perspectives, on issues in bioethics.” Recent authors include Carol Levine of the United Hospital Fund.

“Financial Penalties for the Unhealthy? Ethical Guidelines for Holding Employees Responsible for Their Health,” Steven D. Pearson and Sarah R. Lieber, Health Affairs, May/June 2009.

The Greenwall Foundation, a national foundation located in New York City, has bioethics as one of its two funding priorities.

Environmental Health

Blog post; conference:

“CleanMed Conference Takes on Health Care’s Environmental Impact,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF’s) Pioneering Ideas blog, 22 April 2010. The RWJF Blog team notes “a disturbing irony: The hospitals and clinics we rely upon to keep us healthy may be contributing to poor health in the first place.” The post mentions Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), as well as the 2010 CleanMed conference going on 11-13 May, in Baltimore. See the list of HCWH’s funders.

Recent reports:

Health Problems Heat Up: Climate Change and the Public’s Health, a Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) report, was released 26 October 2009. It looks at “U.S. planning for changing health threats posed by climate change, such as heat-related sickness, respiratory infections, natural disasters, changes to the food supply, and infectious diseases carried by insects.” TFAH notes that only five states—California, Maryland, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Washington—had “plans to address the health impact of climate change” as of the report’s writing. The report was funded by the Pew Environment Group. The group is part of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which was formerly a foundation and became a public charity in 2004.

The Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending, a 2010 technical report by John A. Romley, Andrew Hackbarth, and Dana P. Goldman, was published by RAND Health and funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This interesting study ”determined how much failing to meet federal air quality standards cost various purchasers/payers of hospital care in California over 2005–2007.” Air pollution is known to be harmful to human health, but “little is known about the financing of such pollution-related medical care,” according to a March 2010 press release. RAND Health picked California for the study, as it is “known for its high levels of particulates and ozone.”

The cost to public health care purchasers (such as Medicare and Medicaid) and private health insurers was “more than $193 million for hospital care alone from 2005 to 2007,” said that press release, which was issued by the Kresge Foundation. Kresge wants to get the word out because it “has underwritten a communication strategy targeted at the healthcare industry, including payers and providers, to raise their awareness of the public-health dimensions of pollution-related respiratory illness,” the release explained. David Fukuzawa, who directs Kresge’s health program, said in the release that the foundation “is interested in helping to advance the case that environment quality has [to] be considered when we discuss how to improve the health of the nation’s children and adults.” He added that this RAND Health report “goes a long way in confirming that link.”

The full report is available for $20.70 if purchased on the Web; a research brief is available online.

Related resource:

“Asthma Prevalence Subject of Study,” Jody Weigand, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6 May 2010,  http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_679444.html#.  A large  Heinz Endowments grant for the Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has funded programming and operations at the center, including the asthma study, a spokesman from the endowments explained to Health Affairs.

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