Blog Home

Archive for the 'Public Health' Category




Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, The ACA, And The Corporate Person: A Historical Myth Bedevils The Law


April 18th, 2014
by Malcolm Harkins

On March 25, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in two cases—Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius—challenging the validity of the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) mandate that employer-sponsored health plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptives (the “Contraceptive Mandate”). In each case, closely held plaintiff corporations contend that the Contraceptive Mandate illegally infringed upon the corporations’ freedom to exercise religion.

The cases attracted attention because the Supreme Court had agreed to hear yet another challenge to the validity of the ACA’s provisions, but it has been less noticed that both cases, and others like them, implicate a fundamental question that the Supreme Court has never decided; on what basis, if any, is a corporation a “person” entitled to assert the constitutional and statutory rights of natural persons. Without denying the significance of the challenge to the ACA’s Contraceptive Mandate, the Supreme Court’s failure to define a principled corporate person theory has had—and continues to have—important and pervasive implications for the American legal system beyond the present cases.

Typically, legal concepts creating and regulating societal rights and obligations, like the corporate personhood concept, come into being incrementally in an extended evolutionary process. That evolutionary process is characterized by a dialectic give and take in which the principles justifying—or precluding—application of the concept in a variety of different factual scenarios are gradually clarified, defined and developed through a series of judicial decisions. The problem confronting the Supreme Court as it considers the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases is that the concept of corporate personhood did not develop gradually or in an evolutionary process in which the meaning of the concept was developed and defined. Instead, the concept of the corporate person was imposed on the law ipse dixit, that is, by judicial fiat and without definition, in a series of late nineteenth century Supreme Court cases.

Read the rest of this entry »

Development Assistance For Global Health: Is The Funding Revolution Over?


April 17th, 2014
by Jennifer Kates

In many ways, the last twenty years have been somewhat of a “revolution” in global health, as marked by rising attention, growing funding, and the creation of new, large scale initiatives to address global health challenges in low and middle income countries.  Indeed, the 1990s brought a steady increase in global concern about health, largely centered on the HIV epidemic and due to civil society organizing to draw attention to the growing crisis, leading to the creation of the Millennium Development Goals, and soon thereafter, the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund), and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and other efforts.

A key driver of increased funding has been donors – governments and multilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and foundations.  And tracking their funding has become one of the critical measures of the global health response.

A new analysis from Dieleman et al., published as a Health Affairs Web First on April 8, provides a needed contribution to the literature on donor funding for health, including an understanding not just of where donor funding is going but of the relationship between aid, burden, and income.

Read the rest of this entry »

Embarking On A New Journey With Health Affairs


March 31st, 2014
by Alan Weil

I am delighted to be taking on the role of editor-in-chief of Health Affairs. This is a dynamic time in all aspects of health and health care: insurance coverage expansions, delivery system changes, and growing attention to population health.  Building upon thirty-three years of peer-reviewed scholarship, Health Affairs will continue to serve as the nation’s primary resource for the health policy community.

My goals for Health Affairs coalesce around a single theme: broadening the reach of the journal.

Health Affairs is strong in the core health policy community, but our scholarship is relevant to myriad actors in the one-sixth of the United States economy represented by health care.  My goal is to broaden our engagement with the worlds of law, finance, design, and many others.

Read the rest of this entry »

Health Policy Leader Alan Weil To Become New Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief


March 31st, 2014
by Chris Fleming

Health Affairs and its publisher Project HOPE are pleased to announce that Alan Weil will become the journal’s new editor-in-chief on June 2, 2014.

Weil, a highly respected expert in health policy and current member of Health Affairs’ editorial board, will lead the journal after serving as the executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) since 2004. His work with state policymakers of both political parties put Weil at the forefront of health reform policy, implementation, innovation, and practice. Prior to his leadership of NASHP, he served in both the public and private sectors. He directed the Urban Institute’s “Assessing New Federalism” project; served as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and a health policy advisor to Colorado’s then-governor, Roy Romer; and was the assistant general counsel in the Massachusetts Department of Medical Security.

“We’re delighted to welcome Alan to the Project HOPE family,” said John P. Howe III, M.D., President and CEO of Project HOPE. “He comes to Health Affairs with more than 24 years of experience in health policy development and a stellar record of leadership and innovation in this field. I’m confident he will lead the journal’s talented staff on a new and successful path forward. I am extremely grateful to John Iglehart, the Founding Editor of Health Affairs for his stewardship of the journal for more than 25 years, ensuring its coveted rank as the leading health policy journal of our time.”

“Alan Weil’s extensive background in health and health care policy will serve him well in his new role as Health Affairs’ editor-in-chief,” noted John Iglehart, who currently leads the journal. “With his position on the front lines of health system change, he is an experienced leader who has deep familiarity with and longstanding connections to the health policy, research, and health care leadership communities. In particular, in his role as NASHP’s executive director, Alan worked on complex issues of critical importance to leaders in state and federal government and the private sector. This background will serve Health Affairs well as it continues to grow in influence both in the US and globally.”

Read the rest of this entry »

A March Madness Health Wonk Review


March 27th, 2014
by Chris Fleming

Welcome to the “March Madness” edition of the Health Wonk Review. The NCAA college basketball tournament seemed like a natural theme for a health care policy blog post: huge amounts of money floating around in ways that only sometimes correlate with performance, and head-to-head match-ups that can yield results no one expected (though in the tournament those unexpected results produce quicker and more certain changes than is often the case in health care).

We considered illustrating each blog post with pictures of a college basketball team from the author’s home state celebrating a championship, but we thought better of that after seeing this cautionary tale. So let’s get to the great collection of posts from our Wonkers.

Read the rest of this entry »

The New Nutrition Facts Panel: Public Health Improvement Or Distraction?


March 19th, 2014
by Brian Elbel

Last month, the United States Food and Drug Administration announced long awaited proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP), the nutrition information found on the back of packaged foods and beverages. The NFP is required to be on all packaged foods, with significant regulations on what is presented and how the information can be presented. Initially mandated in the first Bush Administration, the NFP offers a clear and consistent manner of presenting nutrition information—at least for those with the time and nutrition knowledge to benefit from the information.

The key questions behind the proposed changes are: will they be successful in altering consumer behavior, how might they be improved, and what overall role might they play in obesity prevention?

The NFP is clearly a source from which those already motivated and knowledgeable can easily access information and a base on which to build future approaches to addressing obesity. Put differently, this information will only work if people actively, directly choose to turn the package over, engage in information, and push past the many impulses pulling them towards the less healthy foods. The compelling nature of unhealthy foods means that individuals have to be particularly motivated, or the nutrition information has to be particularly compelling.

Read the rest of this entry »

Neighborhood Grocery Stores Combat Obesity, Improve Food Perceptions


March 12th, 2014
by Yael Lehmann

The Cummins et al article “New Neighborhood Grocery Store Increased Awareness of Food Access but Did Not Alter Dietary Habits or Obesity,” published in the February issue of Health Affairs, generated considerable media attention, with headlines claiming that grocery stores do not contribute to healthy diets or reductions in obesity.  However, the study offered no conclusive proof showing that access to grocery stores is not a part of the solution to preventing obesity.  In fact, the study showed clear signs of promise that the intervention was working in key aspects during the short time the researchers collected data.  Within just a few months after the new supermarket opened, for example, researchers documented significant improvement in residents’ perceptions about the choice and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with improvements in their perception of healthy food accessibility.

The subject of the study, the Fresh Grocer in North Philadelphia, is a beautiful store with a bountiful fresh produce section. The supermarket, which is now thriving in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, was built from the ground up after a 15-year hiatus in which the surrounding community had no grocery store. Its opening has revitalized a historic African-American owned shopping plaza and reinvigorated the local neighborhood’s retail economy.

Has the store reduced the rate of obesity among local residents? This is a crucial question, but one that cannot be adequately deduced from the present study. All we know from this study’s findings is that obesity rates did not change significantly during the first six to nine months after the store’s opening – not surprising, given the many decades of gradual changes in eating habits that have led to the obesity epidemic.

Read the rest of this entry »

HA Issue Briefing: The ACA And The Future Of HIV/AIDS In America


February 28th, 2014
by Chris Fleming

One of the least explored yet most important parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are provisions that hold promise for addressing serious health care challenges facing the 1.1 million Americans who are living with HIV/AIDS — and others like them — most of whom are impoverished and uninsured.

Please join Health Affairs Founding Editor John Iglehart on Tuesday, March 11, in Washington, DC, for a Health Affairs briefing where we will spotlight issues related to the ACA and people with HIV/AIDS.

WHEN:
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
9:00 a.m. – Noon

WHERE:
National Press Club
529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC, 13th Floor (Metro Center)

REGISTER ONLINE

Follow live Tweets from the briefing @HA_Events, and join in the conversation with the hashtag #HA_HIVAIDS

Read the rest of this entry »

Empathy: The First Step To Improving Health Outcomes


February 25th, 2014
by Aubrey Hill

Health care providers across the country are diagnosing, prescribing, and bandaging, but for many patients, that may not be enough to improve health.

Health care providers have a unique opportunity to improve patient health outcomes by practicing empathy for their patients and complex life circumstances. Empathy is defined as, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” and studies have shown that empathy is an important skill for health care providers and is significantly associated with improved clinical outcomes.

Social Determinants of Health

Social and environmental factors (also known as social determinants of health) have a larger impact on health than medical intervention. Social determinants of health such as income, education, food and housing access, and racial and ethnic inequality affect the health of a person from birth to death, and can be difficult to understand and control for within a health care visit. Due to a lack of social resources, patients are unable to fully comply with treatment plans, follow provider instructions, return for a follow-up visit, and ultimately, experience good health outcomes. A few specific examples include: problems accessing care without insurance, finding funds to cover needed services or prescriptions, securing transportation to get to and from appointments on time, or speaking the same language as a health care provider.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cesarean Rates: A Global Perspective


February 24th, 2014
by Christine Spencer

As noted in a previous Health Affairs Blog post by Katy Kozhimannil and Ezra Golberstein, there is significant variability in cesarean delivery rates across the United States, but this is also true worldwide. Worldwide cesarean delivery rates have come under scrutiny and criticism since the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested in 1985 that the optimal rate should not exceed 10 to 15 percent.

Although currently there is no expert agreement on a single optimal level, a general consensus has emerged that extremely low rates (less than 5 percent) suggest underuse and higher rates (greater than 10-15 percent) suggest overuse. Globally, the average rate sits slightly above that recommended level at 16 percent. However, the mean value masks the underlying variability that exists across countries and the different issues inherent in the variation. Of countries which report at least some cesarean deliveries, the range of use runs from 1 percent (Niger) to 52 percent (Brazil) of live child births.

Middle and High-Income Countries

Cesarean rates in middle and high-income countries have continued to increase over the last decade (most are significantly over 15 percent). The average rate among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)-member countries is 26.9 per 100 live births (range: 14.7 to 49.0). Comparatively, the United States has a very high rate of cesarean delivery (31.4 per 100 live births). In Switzerland, for example, cesarean section rates varied in 2010 from less than 20 percent to over 40 percent in a region. Within a region, the rates also varied by hospital. A study in France found more cesarean sections were performed in for-profit hospitals than in public hospitals, which treat more complicated pregnancies, suggesting that financial incentives may also play a role in explaining excess cesarean deliveries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jeffrey Brenner On GrantWatch: The Future For Population Health


February 21st, 2014
by Tracy Gnadinger

In a recent GrantWatch Blog post, Jeffrey Brenner raises the question, “What if Thomas Edison had to write grant proposals to invent the light bulb?” Brenner is a MacArthur fellow, medical director of the Urban Health Institute, and executive director and founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

Brenner uses the Edison analogy to look at current grant funding and population health.

Since 1945 the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a federal government agency that funds medical research, has spent $547 billion dollars to cure disease and push the frontiers of medical knowledge. This spending has been supplemented by funding from private foundations. Sadly, despite all of this spending we have little understanding of how to deliver better care at lower cost to every American. At best, in the field of population health, we have a few light bulbs that stay lit for an hour or two, but we lack even basic knowledge to drive this field forward.

With 85 million baby boomers in the midst of retiring and a health care system that consumes 18 percent of our economy, it is not a small problem. We do not understand the fundamental drivers of health care utilization; the basic rules for designing and implementing effective interventions; the best ways to use data to plan, implement, manage, and evaluate interventions; nor how to train staff to run and lead these interventions. Why the lack of progress?

Read the rest of this entry »

A Call For A Deeper, Cross-Sector Examination Of The Hunger-Health Link


February 18th, 2014
by Sharon Feuer Gruber

Evidence continues to build that hunger should be approached in some measure as a public health issue, and Hilary Seligman of the University of California, San Francisco and co-authors contribute to this trove of research in the January Health Affairs journal article “Exhaustion of Food Budgets at Month’s End and Hospital Admissions for Hypoglycemia.” Hunger-relief organizations across the country can attest to the long-observed pattern of a rise in demand for food distribution at the end of the month. In fact, meal providers and food pantries tailor their decisions about purchasing, staffing, and program design around the uptick in client need as the month comes to a close. Seligman et al correlate this surge in demand with an increase in hospitalization among low-income individuals the fourth week of the month (a 27 percent increase in hospitalization among low-income individuals for hypoglycemia, according to their study). These findings suggest the profound need to devise food policies and programs with public health in mind.

However, to effectively address hunger as a public health issue in particular, hunger-relief organizations, community health organizations, universities, government, and others must take a collective impact approach. This cross-sector approach to complex, systemic social issues fosters coordination among such groups so they can have a greater positive impact than if they were to operate independent of one another; it is being turned to with increasing frequency to create large-scale social change. Policy can encourage a collective impact approach; it is already happening in the case of hospitals, which under Section 3025 of the Affordable Care Act, are penalized a portion of their Medicare reimbursement if they have a higher than expected rate of acute care readmissions within 30 days of discharge. (See 42 CFR part 412P.)

New community and regional partnerships are beginning to develop in part because of this incentive. The Atlanta Community Food Bank, for example, which distributed 21.8 percent more food and grocery items this past fiscal year than the last, is in early discussions with the Atlanta Regional Commission, the city health department, regional hospitals, and universities. Together they aim to confront the need for better health education and sustained access to nutritious food among low-income individuals discharged from hospitals for chronic, diet-related disease like diabetes, congestive heart failure, and associated complications. This is precisely the type of alliance that could help address the issues laid out in “Exhaustion of Food Budgets…” Policymakers need to build on this kind of ingenuity taking place in the field – especially if those in the field are expected to do more with less. That will certainly be the case, as the recently enacted Farm Bill imposes $8.6 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years, increasing demand on hunger-relief organizations even further.

Read the rest of this entry »

Doctors Without State Borders: Practicing Across State Lines


February 18th, 2014
by Robert Kocher

Note: In addition to Robert Kocher (photo and bio above), this post is authored, by Topher Spiro, Vice President, Health Policy, Center for American Progress ; Emily Oshima Lee, Policy Analyst, Center for American Progress; Gabriel Scheffler, Yale Law School student and former Ford Foundation Law Fellow at the Center for American Progress with the Health Policy Team; Stephen Shortell, Blue Cross of California Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management and Professor of Organization Behavior at the School of Public Health and Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley; David Cutler, Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University; and Ezekiel Emanuel, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

In the United States, a tangled web of federal and state regulations controls physician licensing. Although federal standards govern medical training and testing, each state has its own licensing board, and doctors must procure a license for every state in which they practice medicine (with some limited exceptions for physicians from bordering states, for consultations, and during emergencies).

This bifurcated system makes it difficult for physicians to care for patients in other states, and in particular impedes the practice of telemedicine. The status quo creates excessive administrative burdens and like contributes to worse health outcomes, higher costs, and reduced access to health care.

We believe that, short of the federal government implementing a single national licensing scheme, states should adopt mutual recognition agreements in which they honor each other’s physician licenses. To encourage states to adopt such a system, we suggest that the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) create an Innovation Model to pilot the use of telemedicine to provide access to underserved communities by offering funding to states that sign mutual recognition agreements.

Read the rest of this entry »

Health Affairs “Community Development And Health” November 2014 Theme Issue: Announcement


February 18th, 2014
by Chris Fleming

Health Affairs plans to publish an issue on the topic of “Community Development and Health” in November 2014. Details on the upcoming issue are available here. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2014.

Papers will be competitively reviewed by editors, and, for those that are selected for external review, outside experts. We will make publication decisions based on these selection processes.

If you are interested in submitting a paper, please review our submissions procedures and guidelines. Contact senior deputy editor Sarah Dine (sdine@projecthope.org) or executive editor Don Metz (dmetz@projecthope.org) with any questions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Encouraging Nonprofit Hospitals To Invest In Community Building: The Role Of IRS ‘Safe Harbors’


February 11th, 2014

Hospitals as public health actors. A notable development in public health policy is the growing emphasis on community health improvement as part of the community benefit activities required of nonprofit hospitals that seek federal tax exempt status under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Key industry leaders, such as the Catholic Health Association, have sought to increase the role of hospitals as public health actors. A report by the Hilltop Institute recognizes the potential link between hospitals’ community benefit expenditure activities and community health and describes states that have sought to involve hospitals in health planning to improve public health.

Two important policy developments have breathed further life into the effort to emphasize public health investments as part of a community benefit strategy. This post reviews these policy advances and proposes that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) establish “safe harbors” describing in advance certain evidence-based investments by nonprofit hospitals in their communities that will automatically count as required community benefit activities.

Read the rest of this entry »

GrantWatch: Zip Code Overrides DNA When It Comes to Health


February 4th, 2014
by Tracy Gnadinger

This month on GrantWatch Blog, Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, expands on the recommendations released last month from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)’s Commission to Build a Healthier America (of which Warhover was a commissioner). For more on the report, see the Health Affairs Blog post.

In “Zip Code Overrides DNA Code When It Comes to a Healthy Community,” Warhover looks at the impact of a person’s environment on health.

Everyone wants to live a long and healthy life. Yet one-fifth of all Americans live in environments that compromise their health—where there are no sidewalks or trails for people to walk and bike; where there are no playgrounds or parks for children to play; where crime and violence discourage not only outdoor activity, but also social interaction; and where communities lack affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

In fact, when it comes to your health, your zip code matters more than genes, writes Warhover. The recommendations of the RWJF Commission raises awareness of this issue and suggests new priorities that include “investments in our youngest children, encouraging leaders in different sectors to work together to create communities where healthy decisions are possible, and broadening the mission of health care providers beyond treatment.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Broadening the ACA Story: A Totally Accountable Care Organization


January 23rd, 2014
 
by Stephen Somers and Tricia McGinnis

Note: This post is coauthored by Stephen Somers and Tricia McGinnis of the Center for Health Care Strategies.

Amid the bumpiness of Obamacare’s widely publicized technical launch, some in the media started taking the opportunity to laud the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) largely untold story in reforming our “overpriced, underperforming health care system.”  The New York Times’ Bill Keller and Harvard health economist David Cutler, writing in the Washington Post, reported that progress was being made on multiple fronts in re-orienting the system to pay “for the value, not the volume, of medical care.” They pointed to penalties for hospital readmissions; the use of bundled payments; the development of Medicare and commercial accountable care organizations (ACOs); and a slowdown in health care cost growth at least partially attributable to these changes.

Within state-run Medicaid programs, a parallel phenomenon has been taking shape—the creation of ACOs tailored to the care needs of Medicaid’s beneficiaries, many of whom have multiple chronic health and social challenges. While ACOs for the broad range of Medicaid beneficiaries will be similar to the ACOs that already exist in the Medicare and commercial insurance sector, a new breed of Totally Accountable Care OrganizationsTACOs – offer the potential to push accountability for Medicaid populations, including those with complex needs, to a new level. “Totally” refers to the expectation that these organizations will be responsible for services beyond just medical care (for example, mental health, substance abuse treatment and other social supports), as well as the aspiration that these organizations will assume accountability for all associated costs of care, ultimately, through global payment mechanisms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Examination Of Health Information Technology’s Disappointing Impact Leads Health Affairs 2013 Top-Fifteen List


January 21st, 2014
by Chris Fleming

Years after promises of large gains from health information technology, evidence of the impact of health IT on efficiency and safety remain mixed, Arthur Kellermann and Spencer Jones report in the most-read Health Affairs article of 2013. Achieving health IT’s original promise will require standardized systems that are easier to use and more interoperable, and that provide patients with more control over their health information; providers must re-engineer care systems as well, Kellermann and Jones write. To celebrate the New Year, Health Affairs is making this piece and all the articles on the journal’s 2013 most-read list freely available to all readers for one week.

Second on the 2013 top-fifteen list is a report on 2011 health spending by analysts at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary. Every year, Health Affairs publishes a retrospective analysis of National Health Expenditures by the CMS analysts, as well as their health spending projections for the coming decade. In the latest installment in this series, the analysts reported on 2012 health spending in our January 2014 issue and discussed their findings at a Washington DC briefing.

In the third most-read Health Affairs article of 2013, Linda Green and coauthors caution against projecting primary care physician shortages based on simple patient-physician ratios. They argue that increasingly popular strategies — such as the use of teams and nonphysicians, and better information technology and data-sharing — can potentially eliminate projected physician shortages.

The top fifteen articles for 2013 also include studies addressing the impact of states’ opting out of Medicaid expansion, the cost-shifting effects of some workplace wellness programs, and several other topics. The full list appears below. The list is based on online viewing statistics and covers all articles published in 2013.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Call To Arms: Support For Emergency Care Isn’t Making The Grade


January 16th, 2014
 
by Jon Mark Hirshon and Alex Skog

Emergency departments (EDs) play a critical role within the American health care system, delivering life and limb saving care daily to thousands of patients. On January 16th 2014, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) released America’s Emergency Care Environment: A State-by-State Report Card to assess support for emergency care. This Report Card, the third edition of this report, assesses the current state of the acute care system on both a national and on a state-by-state level. This most recent edition provides an alarming evaluation of the support for the emergency care system in the United States, which is particularly concerning given the current state of change and uncertainty that is pervasive throughout the US with regard to health care.

The ACEP 2014 Report Card uses objective data to track various aspects of the acute care system in order to provide a better understanding of the trajectory the overall emergency care system. It is not a report on individual hospitals or health systems, but rather a grade of the policies, regulations and governmental activities that are important supports for emergency care.

The Report Card’s greatest value lies in its ability to validate on a detailed level the recent claims that have been reverberating throughout the U.S. and the international community related to the important role and need for inclusion of acute care within health systems. In a recent WHO Bulletin article, an Academic Emergency Medicine consensus conference proceedings, and most recently in the entire December issue of Health Affairs, experts argue that an emergency care system is a vital aspect of a mature, functioning health system; yet, is it frequently neglected and is not receiving enough attention. While these publications have used the best data available to validate their claims, this national report provides the most current and comprehensive data that support for the system is not only fraught with deficiencies but is headed in a downward trajectory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Health Beyond Health Care: RWJF Commission Issues New Report


January 15th, 2014
 
by Chris Fleming and Tracy Gnadinger

Much of the political debate over health reform has focused on the important questions of affordable health insurance coverage and access to medical care. However, medical care is far from the most important factor influencing health, a fact that is at the core of a newly released report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build A Healthier America.

The Commission was initially formed in 2008 and issued 2009 recommendations concerning influences on health such as nutrition, physician activity, and tobacco use. The new report, “Time To Act: Investing in the Health of our Children and Communities,” also focuses on socioeconomic factors; specifically, it recommends increased investments in early childhood development, including universal access to quality early childhood development programs for low-income children under age 5; efforts to promote healthier neighborhoods through collaboration among the health, community development, and finance sectors; and a new orientation for health care providers toward nonmedical determinants of health and working with nonmedical professionals. The report provides examples of successful initiatives in each of these areas.

Most people think about health and health care together, said Mark McClellan of the Brookings Institution, who co-chaired the Commission with Brookings colleague Alice Rivlin, in a webcast marking the report’s release.  But “when you start looking at the evidence, looking at what’s working on the ground to actually have a meaningful impact on the health of people,” you realize that “you can’t get there just by putting more resources into health care.”

The new report signals a renewed emphasis for RWJF on addressing the broad universe of factors beyond health care that affect health. “Over the next year, our foundation is really going to invest in what we’re talking about as a culture of health — that is, how do we come together across sectors to make America healthier,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of the foundation.. This post will briefly touch on the report’s recommendations, with more discussion to follow in the coming days via a guest post on Health Affairs Blog and our sister publication, GrantWatch Blog.

Read the rest of this entry »

Click here to email us a new post.