What Passes and Fails as Health Policy and Management

What Passes and Fails as Health Policy and Management
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Vol. 39, No. 5, October 2014 DOI 10.1215/03616878-2813719

Rodwin, Victor G. and David Chinitz

The field of health policy and management (HPAM) faces a gap between theory, policy and practice. Despite decades of efforts at reforming health policy and health care systems, prominent analysts state that the health system is ‘‘stuck’’ and that models for change remain ‘‘aspirational.’’ We discuss four reasons for the failure of current ideas and models for redesigning health care: (1) the dominance of microeconomic thinking; (2) the lack of comparative studies of health care organizations and the limits of health management theory in recognizing the importance of local contexts; (3) the separation of HPAM from the rank and file of health care, particularly physicians; and (4) the failure to expose medical students to issues of HPAM. We conclude with suggestions for rethinking how the field of HPAM might generate more promising policies for health care providers and managers by abandoning the illusion of context-free theories and, instead, seeking to facilitate the processes by which organizations can learn to improve their own performance.

Determinants of the Availability of Hepatitis C Testing Services in Opioid Treatment Programs: Results From a National Study

Determinants of the Availability of Hepatitis C Testing Services in Opioid Treatment Programs: Results From a National Study
American Journal of Public Health, 2014 (June), 104(6): 75-82. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301827

Frimpong, J.A., D’Aunno, T. & Jiang, L.

OBJECTIVES: We examined trends and organizational-level correlates of the availability of HCV testing in opioid treatment programs.

METHODS: We used generalized ordered logit models to examine associations between organizational characteristics of 383 opioid treatment programs from the 2005 and 2011 National Drug Abuse Treatment System Survey and HCV testing availability.

RESULTS: Between 2005 and 2011, the proportion of opioid treatment programs offering HCV testing increased but largely because of increases in off-site referrals rather than on-site testing. HCV testing availability was higher in opioid treatment programs affiliated with a hospital and those receiving federal funds. Opioid treatment programs providing both methadone and buprenorphine were more likely to offer any HCV testing, whereas opioid treatment programs providing only buprenorphine treatment were less likely to offer on-site testing. HCV testing availability was associated with more favorable staff-to-client ratios.

CONCLUSIONS: The increasing use of off-site referrals for HCV testing in opioid treatment programs likely limits opportunities for case finding, prevention, and treatment. Declines in federal funding for opioid treatment programs may be a key determinant of the availability of HCV testing in opioid treatment programs.

Evidence-based treatment for opioid disorders: A 23-year national study of methadone dose levels

Evidence-based treatment for opioid disorders: A 23-year national study of methadone dose levels
Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, in press. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsat.2014.06.001

D’Aunno, T., Pollack, H.A., Frimpong, J.A. & Wuchiett, D.

Effective treatment for patients with opioid use problems is as critical as ever given the upsurge in heroin and prescription opioid abuse. Yet, results from prior studies show that the majority of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) programs in the US have not provided dose levels that meet evidence-based standards. Thus, this paper examines the extent to which US MMT programs have made changes in the past 23 years to provide adequate methadone doses; we also identify factors associated with variation in program performance. Program directors and clinical supervisors of nationally-representative methadone treatment programs were surveyed in 1988 (n = 172), 1990 (n = 140), 1995 (n = 116), 2000 (n = 150), 2005 (n = 146), and 2011 (n = 140). Results show that the proportion of patients who received doses below 60 mg/day—the minimum recommended—declined from 79.5 to 22.8% in a 23-year span. Results from random effects models show that programs that serve a higher proportion of African-American or Hispanic patients were more likely to report low-dose care. Programs with Joint Commission accreditation were more likely to provide higher doses, as were a program that serves a higher proportion of unemployed and older patients. Efforts to improve methadone treatment practices have made substantial progress, but 23% of patients across the nation are still receiving doses that are too low to be effective.

HIV testing in the nation’s opioid treatment programs, 2005-2011: The role of state regulations

HIV testing in the nation’s opioid treatment programs, 2005-2011: The role of state regulations
Health Services Research, 2014 (February), 49(1):230-48. DOI: 10.1111/1475-6773.12094

D’Aunno, T., Pollack, H.A., Jiang, L., Metsch, L.R. & Friedmann, P. D.

Objective: To identify the extent to which clients in a national sample of opioid treatment programs (OTPs) received HIV testing in 2005 and 2011; to examine relationships between state laws for informed consent and pretest counseling and rates of HIV testing among OTP clients.

Data Source: Data were collected from a nationally representative sample of OTPs in 2005 (n = 171) and 2011 (n = 200).

Study Design: Random-effects logit and interval regression analyses were used to examine changes in HIV testing rates and the relationship of state laws to HIV testing among OTPs.

Data Collection: Data on OTP provision of HIV testing were collected in phone surveys from OTP managers; data also were collected on state laws for HIV testing.

Principal Findings: The percentage of OTPs offering HIV testing decreased significantly from 93 percent in 2005 to 64 percent in 2011. Similarly, the percentage of clients tested decreased from an average of 41 percent in 2005 to 17 percent in 2011. OTPs located in states whose laws do not require pretest counseling and that use opt-out consent were more likely to provide HIV testing and to test higher percentages of clients.

Conclusions: The results show the need to increase HIV testing among OTP clients; the results also underscore the beneficial possibilities of dropping pretest counseling as a requirement for HIV testing and of using the opt-out approach to informed consent for testing.

Evidence-Based Management: Implications for Nonprofit Organizations

Evidence-Based Management: Implications for Nonprofit Organizations
Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Spring 2014, 24(3): 417–424. doi: 10.1002/nml.21097

Kovner, A. R.

The article reviews evidence-based management and its implications for practice and teaching. My focus is on strategic decision making in nonprofit organizations. Evidence-based management is a process that includes framing the question, finding evidence, assuring accuracy, applicability, and actionability of evidence until the evidence is the best available.

Urinary phthalates and increased insulin resistance in adolescents

Urinary phthalates and increased insulin resistance in adolescents
Pediatrics. 2013 Sep;132(3):e646-55. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-4022. Epub 2013 Aug 19.

Trasande L, Spanier AJ, Sathyanarayana S, Attina TM, Blustein J.

BACKGROUND: Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) is an environmental chemical commonly found in processed foods. Phthalate exposures, in particular to DEHP, have been associated with insulin resistance in adults, but have not been studied in adolescents.


Using cross-sectional data from 766 fasting 12- to 19-year-olds in the 2003-2008 NHANES, we examined associations of phthalate metabolites with continuous and categorical measures of homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR).


Controlling for demographic and behavioral factors, diet, continuous age, BMI category, and urinary creatinine, for each log (roughly threefold) increase in DEHP metabolites, a 0.27 increase (95% confidence interval 0.14-0.40; P < .001) in HOMA-IR was identified. Compared with the first tertile of DEHP metabolite in the study population (14.5% insulin resistant), the third tertile had 21.6% prevalence (95% confidence interval 17.2%-26.0%; P = .02). Associations persisted despite controlling for bisphenol A, another endocrine-disrupting chemical commonly found in foods, and HOMA-IR and insulin resistance were not significantly associated with metabolites of lower molecular weight phthalates commonly found in cosmetics and other personal care products.


Urinary DEHP concentrations were associated with increased insulin resistance in this cross-sectional study of adolescents. This study cannot rule out the possibility that insulin-resistant children ingest food with higher phthalate content, or that insulin-resistant children excrete more DEHP.

Race/Ethnicity-Specific Associations of Urinary Phthalates with Childhood Body Mass in a Nationally Representative Sample

Race/Ethnicity-Specific Associations of Urinary Phthalates with Childhood Body Mass in a Nationally Representative Sample
Environmental Health Perspectives. 121:501-506.

Trasande, Leonardo, Teresa M Attina, S Sathyanarayana, Adam J Spanier, Jan Blustein.

Background: Phthalates have antiandrogenic effects and may disrupt lipid and carbohydrate metabolism. Racial/ethnic subpopulations have been documented to have varying urinary phthalate concentrations and prevalences of childhood obesity.

Objective: We examined associations between urinary phthalate metabolites and body mass outcomes in a nationally representative sample of U.S. children and adolescents.

Methods: We performed stratified and whole-sample cross-sectional analyses of 2,884 children 6–19 years of age who participated in the 2003–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Multivariable linear and logistic analyses of body mass index z-score, overweight, and obesity were performed against molar concentrations of low-molecular-weight (LMW), high-molecular-weight (HMW), and di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) metabolites, controlling for sex, television watching, caregiver education, caloric intake, poverty–income ratio, race/ethnicity, serum cotinine, and age group. We used sensitivity analysis to examine robustness of results to removing sample weighting, normalizing phthalate concentrations for molecular weight, and examining different dietary intake covariates.

Results: In stratified, multivariable models, each log unit (roughly 3-fold) increase in LMW metabolites was associated with 21% and 22% increases in odds (95% CI: 1.05–1.39 and 1.07–1.39, respectively) of overweight and obesity, and a 0.090-SD unit increase in BMI z-score (95% CI: 0.003–0.18), among non-Hispanic blacks. Significant associations were not identified in any other racial/ethnic subgroup or in the study sample as a whole after controlling for potential confounders, associations were not significant for HMW or DEHP metabolites, and results did not change substantially with sensitivity analysis.

Conclusions: We identified a race/ethnicity–specific association of phthalates with childhood obesity in a nationally representative sample. Further study is needed to corroborate the association and evaluate genetic/epigenomic predisposition and/or increased phthalate exposure as possible explanations for differences among racial/ethnic subgroups.

Immortal Time Bias: A Frequently Unrecognized Threat to Validity in the Evaluation of Postoperative Radiotherapy

Immortal Time Bias: A Frequently Unrecognized Threat to Validity in the Evaluation of Postoperative Radiotherapy
International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics., Vol. 83, no. 5, pp. 1365-1373. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2011.10.025

Park, H.S., C.P. Gross, D.V. Makarov, and J.B. Yu

Purpose: To evaluate the influence of immortal time bias on observational cohort studies of postoperative radiotherapy (PORT) and the effectiveness of sequential landmark analysis to account for this bias.

Methods and Materials: First, we reviewed previous studies of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database to determine how frequently this bias was considered. Second, we used SEER to select three tumor types (glioblastoma multiforme, Stage IA–IVM0 gastric adenocarcinoma, and Stage II–III rectal carcinoma) for which prospective trials demonstrated an improvement in survival associated with PORT. For each tumor type, we calculated conditional survivals and adjusted hazard ratios of PORT vs. postoperative observation cohorts while restricting the sample at sequential monthly landmarks.

Results: Sixty-two percent of previous SEER publications evaluating PORT failed to use a landmark analysis. As expected, delivery of PORT for all three tumor types was associated with improved survival, with the largest associated benefit favoring PORT when all patients were included regardless of survival. Preselecting a cohort with a longer minimum survival sequentially diminished the apparent benefit of PORT.

Conclusions: Although the majority of previous SEER articles do not correct for it, immortal time bias leads to altered estimates of PORT effectiveness, which are very sensitive to landmark selection. We suggest the routine use of sequential landmark analysis to account for this bias.


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