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Roadmaps Out of Fantasyland: RWJF’s Outbreaks Report and the National Health Preparedness Security Index

Jan 30, 2015, 5:47 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Outbreaks 2014

“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras,” the late Theodore Woodward, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, cautioned his students in the 1940s. Woodward’s warning is still invoked to discourage doctors from making rare medical diagnoses for sick patients, when more common ones are usually the cause.

And while many Americans have worried about contracting Ebola—in viral terms, a kind of “zebra”—more commonplace microbial “horses,” such as influenza and measles viruses, continue to pose far greater threats. For instance, a large multistate measles outbreak has been traced to Disneyland theme parks in California—while this year’s strain of seasonal flu has turned out to be severe and widespread.

One obvious conclusion is that many microbes remain a harmful health menace, expected to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans this year. Another—speaking of Disneyland—is that much of America appears to live in a kind of fantasyland, thinking that it is protected against infectious disease.

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Some Unconventional Approaches to Stress: Pioneering Ideas Podcast Episode 7

Jan 29, 2015, 7:00 PM, Posted by Lori Melichar

A man asking for money on the subway this week told me how Hurricane Sandy led to a series of events that left him stressed out by the challenges of putting food on the table for his children.

Recessions, hurricanes, violence—how many ways can we count that add stress to our lives? Whether dealing with economic stress, the stress of caring for an aging parent, or even the stress of keeping up with email, research shows that all of it affects our health. As Alexandra Drane, a guest in the latest episode of RWJF’s Pioneering Ideas podcast, puts it: “When life goes wrong, health goes wrong.”

This episode of the Pioneering Ideas podcast explores unconventional approaches to tackling stress­—and other health problems—with energizing possibilities that could also transform health and health care. From monitoring electricity use as a way of helping the elderly stay in their homes, to measuring the indirect health effects of social services (what if heating assistance led to greater medication adherence?), these conversations offer cutting-edge ideas for building a Culture of Health.

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Field Notes: What Cuba Can Teach Us about Building a Culture of Health

Jan 29, 2015, 9:54 AM, Posted by Maryjoan Ladden, Susan Mende

MaryJoan Ladden and Susan Mende Trip to Cuba

Ever since President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, there’s been growing excitement over the potential for new opportunities for tourism, as well as technology and business exchanges. Most people assume that the flow will be one-sided, with the United States providing expertise and investment to help Cuba’s struggling economy and decaying infrastructure.

That assumption would be wrong. America can—and already has—learned a lot from Cuba. At RWJF, we support MEDICC, an organization that strives to use lessons gleaned from Cuba’s health care system to improve outcomes in four medically underserved communities in the United States—South Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and the Bronx, N.Y. Even with very limited resources, Cuba has universal medical and dental care and provides preventive strategies and primary care at the neighborhood level, resulting in enviable health outcomes. Cuba has a low infant mortality rate and the lowest HIV rate in the Americas, for example—with a fraction of the budget spent in the United States.

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Open Health Data: How To Go for the Gold?

Jan 16, 2015, 1:25 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Dr. Eric Topol Eric J. Topol, M.D.

In his new book, The Patient Will See You Now, Eric Topol, MD, invokes the famed Arabian folk tale One Thousand and One Nights, in which the poor woodcutter Ali Baba utters "Open Sesame" to unseal the cave where thieves have a treasure of gold coins. Topol asks "whether we, like Ali Baba, can breech the gate that keeps us from [health and health care] data, to a new world of openness and transparency."

It's worth remembering that, in the folk tale, Ali Baba does get rich — but after fighting over the gold, almost everybody else ends up dead.

So how do we ensure that the story of increasingly open health data has a more universally happy ending?

It won’t be easy, and Topol acknowledges the quandaries of dealing with the "gold" — the enormous flow of health data already under way.

Among the issues:

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So Much Data! How to Share the Wealth for Healthier Communities

Jan 14, 2015, 5:15 PM, Posted by Alonzo L. Plough

What Counts: Harnessing Data for America's Communities

The world of research and evaluation is experiencing a dramatic increase in the quantity and type of available data for analysis. Estimates are that an astonishing 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in just the past two years. This flood of facts, figures, and measurements brings with it an urgent need for innovative ways to collect and harness the data to provide relevant information to inform policy and advance social change. “Not long ago, we had a problem of insufficient data,” says Kathryn Pettit, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute. “Today we have more data than ever before, but we still need to build capacity to use it in meaningful ways.”

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What's Next Health: What We Can Achieve By Working Together

Jan 13, 2015, 10:49 AM, Posted by Marjorie Paloma

Nate Garvis Color How can it be charitable to work with a business whose motive is to make more profit? Marjorie Paloma shares thoughts from from Nate Garvis.

As part of our What’s Next Health series, RWJF regularly talks with leading thinkers about the future of health and health care. Recently, we spoke with Nate Garvis, founder and author of Naked Civics, about entrepreneurial thinking and how it can be applied to building a Culture of Health. RWJF Director Marjorie Paloma reflects on Nate's approach.

What would you be willing to do to learn?

This is just one of many provocative questions Nate Garvis of Naked Civics is asking the Foundation as we look to build a Culture of Health.

Many times, we come across people who seem to have all the answers. But Nate doesn’t pretend to. Instead, he uses questions that help us journey through an issue, guiding us toward a new type of discovery process—one that takes us to uncomfortable places and challenges us to work with unlikely bedfellows.

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New Year, New Coverage for Millions

Jan 9, 2015, 2:51 PM, Posted by John R. Lumpkin

Health Care Dot Gov healthcare.gov

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on progress toward longstanding goals. At RWJF, we’ve spent the better part of four decades advancing solutions to help everyone in our nation gain access to affordable, high quality health care—a goal we reaffirmed in 2014 when we announced our vision for a Culture of Health in America.

Happily, our country has made enormous progress toward this goal in 2014. Health coverage rates improved dramatically last year because of robust enrollment through the health insurance marketplaces, Medicaid, and CHIP. As we enter 2015, we continue to see strong coverage gains, with nearly 6.6 million consumers newly enrolled or renewing through HealthCare.gov.

But let’s not forget that more than 40 million people remain uninsured. There is still more work to be done to make sure all those who are eligible can get the coverage they need and deserve.

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The Patient—and Her Data—Will See You Now

Jan 7, 2015, 1:48 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Smartphone Photo by Viktor Hanacek, Picjumbo.com

It’s 2015, the year that Marty McFly, the fictional character in the 1989 hit movie "Back to the Future II," visits by time traveling into the future in a souped-up DeLorean automobile. Predictably, most of the technologies the film foreshadowed haven’t been invented as of the real 2015—not the “hover board” that Marty glides along on, nor the self-lacing sneakers, nor (of course) the time travel.

But plenty else has been invented or discovered in the last 30 years, revolutionizing much of our lives, including our health and health care. If you want to feel as exhilarated, and maybe even as disoriented, as Marty did after fast-forwarding to 2015, read Dr. Eric Topol’s new book, The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is In Your Hands.

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Top 10 Signs We are Building a Culture of Health

Dec 17, 2014, 7:18 PM, Posted by Catherine Arnst

Buncombe Children Playing

Last January the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation alerted the world to its new strategy: To build a Culture of Health for all, one that would allow every one of us to make healthy choices wherever we live, work, and play. A big reach, we know, but we are nothing if not optimistic. So, 12 months on, we asked ourselves—How’re we doing? Pretty good, as it turns out. Here are the top 10 signs that America is moving towards a Culture of Health (in no particular order).

10. The evidence is in—kids are beginning to slim down.

Research published in February shows continued signs of progress toward reversing the childhood obesity epidemic: Obesity prevalence among 2 to 5 year olds dropped by approximately 40 percent in eight years, a remarkable turnaround. There is still much work to do in this area, but at least our youngest kids can look forward to a healthier future.

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Improving Health through Collaboration: The BUILD Health Challenge

Nov 26, 2014, 8:59 AM, Posted by Abbey Cofsky

Brownsville Farmers’ Market Enhancing community health: Customers buy produce at the Brownsville Farmers' Market in the Culture of Health Prize-winning city of Brownsville, Texas

Here at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the name of the game is collaboration. Our goal—to build a Culture of Health in which getting and staying healthy is a fundamental societal priority—is an ambitious one, requiring coordinated efforts among everyone in a community, from local businesses to schools to hospitals and government. It also calls for those of us at the Foundation to collaborate with other like-minded groups to address the complex challenges that stand in the way of better health.

That is why we are so pleased to be a partner in the BUILD Health Challenge, a $7.5 million program designed to increase the number and effectiveness of community collaborations to improve health.

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