The IAPHS Blog is a virtual community that keeps population health professionals connected and up to date on the latest population health news, policy, controversies, and relevant research from multiple fields.
The Black Death, an outbreak of bubonic plague (caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis), killed tens of millions of people in 14th-century Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. This epidemic has inspired novels, movies, even Black Death “tour” tee shirts, but what real relevance does it have for us now? The Black Death occurred over 650 years ago in an ecological, social, economic, and political context that might seem very different from that of today. However, it does provide a startling example of the consequences that arise from highly contagious and deadly disease and other disasters. It may also reveal factors that produce extraordinarily high epidemic mortality. Understanding the context and effects of the Black Death might benefit living populations given that: Our species will continue to face old and new diseases for the foreseeable future; Conditions at the time of the Black Death persist or are at least possible today; and Increasing globalization connects far-flung human populations, making diseases that occur anywhere on the globe relevant to us all. (This is true regardless of how much you care, or don’t, about the well-being of strangers.) Bioarchaeology of the Black Death Research using the skeletons of people who died in […]
House vote on the AHCA canceled This month, House Speaker Paul Ryan presented the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to the American public. Many healthcare organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association came out against it, as did AARP. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the AHCA would reduce the number of insured individuals by 24 million over the next decade. Despite making changes to the bill to satisfy both the more moderate and conservative wings of the party, Ryan pulled the bill on Friday, when it became apparent that it wouldn’t be able to garner enough votes to pass the House. Related: IAPHS President Sandro Galea published an article this month in the Milbank Quarterly entitled Revisiting Burke: The AHCA and Freedom from Sickness. In it, he explores the philosopher Edmund Burke’s emphasis on building structures that safeguard well-being to create a context in which individual liberty can be enjoyed by all. Whereas much of the AHCA debate has focused on the importance of freedom “to” enjoy certain liberties (such as the choice to buy or not to buy health insurance), Galea asserts that freedom “from” certain threats, such as sickness or financial ruin, is equally important. […]
For many, the term “science policy” sounds almost like an oxymoron — an unnatural pairing of two different disciplines. Others may be aware of the marriage between ‘science’ and ‘policy,’ but don’t necessarily understand how that relationship functions. Throughout graduate school, I knew I had an interest in science policy but didn’t know exactly what that meant or what role I could play in the field. The turning point for me came after my postdoctoral work, when I took part in a science and technology policy fellowship through the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), a fellowship that gives scientists the opportunity to work as legislative aides and consultants in the California State legislature. Of all the bills that were drafted and analyzed during my fellowship year, one bill stands out to me as the most fitting example of science policy. It’s a high-profile bill that would go on to have an important impact on population health in California: Bill SB 277. SB 277 removed the personal belief exemption from vaccination requirements for enrolling children in private or public school. (Medical exemptions, however, are still allowed.) This exemption had previously allowed parents who did not want to vaccinate their […]
Lessons Learned from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health & Society Scholar Program What does it take to train population health scientists? This new approach to understanding health from a multi-level, interdisciplinary perspective is still in its adolescence, so if you’re looking to establish a training program, good models may be hard to find. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health & Society Scholars (HSS) program has just released a new report that may help to fill this gap. HSS, which recently closed its doors, was regarded by many as a gold standard for training in this field. The new report summarizes how the program was carried out and highlights lessons learned based on 13 years of experience in producing interdisciplinary population health scientists. The report, Building the Science of Population Health: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program 2001–2016 and Beyond, was written by Kristin Harper on the basis of interviews with program participants, faculty, advisors, and funders as well as extensive documentation about the program’s operations over its lifetime. It is available in two lengths: a Full Report and an Executive Summary. HSS was designed to train early career researchers to become interdisciplinary leaders in population […]
An interview with primatologist Jenny Tung This week, IAPHS member Kristin Harper interviewed primatologist Jenny Tung of Duke University about her recent article “Social status alters immune regulation and response to infection in macaques,” which appeared in Science this November. Tung’s study explores how stress resulting from the manipulation of social status affects immune function in rhesus macaques, a common species of Old World monkey. Tung found that social status influenced everything from immune cell numbers to the expression of immune genes to signaling pathways, with implications for the monkeys’ ability to fight infections. Interestingly, social subordination appears to promote antibacterial responses, whereas high social status promotes antiviral responses. Since social status is one of the strongest predictors of human disease risk and mortality, studies such as Tung’s may help us better understand the impact these factors have on the immune response in humans. Here, Tung answers questions about the work she did with collaborators Mark Wilson (Emory University/Yerkes Primate National Research Center) and Luis Barreiro (University of Montreal) to carry out this study. How did you get interested in the biological effects of social status? I’ve been interested in social behavior and evolution for quite some time, since before […]
Have an exciting new paper that deserves a lot of press? Does the thought of talking to reporters tie your stomach in knots? As a reporter who spends each and every day interviewing experts like you, I’d like to offer you some tips on how to share your research far and wide without losing sleep. 1. Journalists are not the enemy! No matter what you heard in media training. If you’re lucky enough to have had media training, you might have heard something like, “journalists are trying to lure you into a ‘gotcha’ situation.” Or maybe the guidance wasn’t that bleak, but your trainer warned you to “stay on message.” This is misguided advice. Generally, we are on the same side. As reporters our goal is often to let the world know about your work! A reporter or editor thought it was interesting and thinks the audience will be interested too. Sometimes being too “on message” can make your work seem less interesting and make you appear wooden. Yes, thinking through how to explain something can be a good exercise, but not to the point where you’re an automaton afraid to say anything else. 2. Ask your own questions […]
Congress debates what to do about the Affordable Care Act Although one of the Republican Party’s main goals for years has been to repeal the Affordable Care Act, just how to do it — and what to replace it with — has sparked much debate recently. GOP leaders provide new details about ObamaCare repeal (The Hill, 2/16/2017) Will Obamacare really go under the knife? (New York Times Magazine, 2/14/2017) GOP health bill draft would cut Medicaid, emphasize tax credits (NPR, 2/24/2017) Update on the CDC’s Winnable Battles initiative In a recent article in JAMA, Thomas Frieden and coauthors reported on the progress made in the 6 focus areas that the CDC identified as winnable battles in 2010. Read about what worked well and what didn’t work so well! What do we mean when we talk about health equity? IAPHS board member David Kindig recently published a Viewpoint in JAMA entitled Population Health Equity: Rate and Burden, Race and Class. In it, he argues that equity must address both the rates of poor health in different groups and the absolute numbers of affected individuals, and that working-class whites may often bear an equal or greater equity burden than racial minorities. Some […]
The Network on Life Course Health Dynamics & Disparities in 21st Century America (NLCHDD) recently put out a call for proposals challenging researchers to investigate possible causes for the declining health of the U.S. population.