Health Policy

Geographic Variations in Health Care Workforce Training in the US: The Case of Registered Nurses (RNs)

Geographic Variations in Health Care Workforce Training in the US: The Case of Registered Nurses (RNs)
Med Care. 2011 Aug;49(8):769-74.

Blustein, Jan.
08/01/2011

Background: In the United States, registered nurses [RNs] are trained through one of three educational pathways: a diploma course; an associate's degree, or a baccalaureate degree in nursing (the BSN). A national consensus has emerged that the proportion of RNs that are baccalaureate-trained should be substantially increased. Yet achieving that goal may be difficult in areas where college graduates are unlikely to reside.


Objectives: To determine whether the level of training of the hospital registered nurse [RN] workforce varies geographically, along with the education of the local general workforce.


Research design: Cross sectional, ecological study.


Subjects: Hospital nurses who participated in the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses [NSSRN] in 2004 (n = 16,567).


Measures. Registered Nurse training was measured as Diploma, Associates degree, or Baccalaureate degree or above. County-level general workforce quality was assessed as the adult college graduation rate. Counties were divided into US population quartiles, with the highest quartile (Q4) having more than 29.3% college graduates, and the lowest quartile (Q1) having fewer than 16.93% college graduates.


Results: Hospital RNs have a higher level of training in counties where the general population is better
educated. For example, in Q4, 55.2% of hospital RNs are baccalaureate-trained, in Q3, 50.2%; in Q2,45.2%; and in Q1, 34.9% (p < .001 for all pairwise comparisons). The association between RN training and general workforce education is found in cities, towns and rural areas.

Conclusions: Nationwide, there are substantial geographic variations in the training of hospital RNs. Educational segregation (the tendency for educated people to cluster geographically) may make it more difficult to achieve a BSN-rich nursing workforce in some areas of the US. Further work is needed to assess whether educational segregation similarly influences the distribution of other health care professionals, and whether it leads to variations in the local quality of care.

Resetting our priorities in environmental health: An example from the south-north partnership in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Resetting our priorities in environmental health: An example from the south-north partnership in Lake Chapala, Mexico
Environ Res. 2011 Aug;111(6):877-80.

Cifuentes E, Lozano Kasten F, Trasande L, Goldman RH.
08/01/2011

Lake Chapala is a major source of water for crop irrigation and subsistence fishing for a population of 300,000 people in central Mexico. Economic activities have created increasing pollution and pressure on the whole watershed resources. Previous reports of mercury concentrations detected in fish caught in Lake Chapala have raised concerns about health risks to local families who rely on fish for both their livelihood and traditional diet. Our own data has indicated that 27% of women of childbearing age have elevated hair mercury levels, and multivariable analysis indicated that frequent consumption of carp (i.e., once a week or more) was associated with significantly higher hair mercury concentrations. In this paper we describe a range of environmental health research projects. Our main priorities are to build the necessary capacities to identify sources of water pollution, enhance early detection of environmental hazardous exposures, and deliver feasible health protection measures targeting children and pregnant women. Our projects are led by the Children's Environmental Health Specialty Unit nested in the University of Guadalajara, in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Health of Harvard School of Public Health and Department of Pediatrics of the New York School of Medicine. Our partnership focuses on translation of knowledge, building capacity, advocacy and accountability. Communication will be enhanced among women's advocacy coalitions and the Ministries of Environment and Health. We see this initiative as an important pilot program with potential to be strengthened and replicated regionally and internationally.

We All Want It, but We Don't Know What It Is: Toward a Standard of Affordability for Health Insurance Premiums

We All Want It, but We Don't Know What It Is: Toward a Standard of Affordability for Health Insurance Premiums
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 2011. Volume 36 / Issue 05 / July 2011, pp 829-853, Published online

Peter Muennig, Bhaven Sampat, Nicholas Tilipman, Lawrence D. Brown and Sherry A. Glied
07/22/2011

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148), or ACA, requires that U.S. citizens either purchase health insurance or pay a fine. To offset the financial burden for lower-income households, it also provides subsidies to ensure that health insurance premiums are affordable. However, relatively little work has been done on how such affordability standards should be set. The existing literature on affordability is not grounded in social norms and has methodological and theoretical flaws. To address these issues, we developed a series of hypothetical vignettes in which individual and household sociodemographic characteristics were varied. We then convened a panel of eighteen experts with extensive experience in affordability standards to evaluate the extent to which each vignette character could afford to pay for one of two health insurance plans. The panel varied with respect to political ideology and discipline. We find that there was considerable disagreement about how affordability is defined. There was also disagreement about what might be included in an affordability standard, with substantive debate surrounding whether savings, debt, education, or single parenthood is relevant. There was also substantial variation in experts' assessed affordability scores. Nevertheless, median expert affordability assessments were not far from those of ACA.

The Brazilian Health System: History, Advances, and Challenges

The Brazilian Health System: History, Advances, and Challenges
The Lancet, Vol. 377, no. 9779, pp. 1778-1797. 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60054-8

Paim, J., C. Travassos, C. Almeida, L. Bahia, and J. Macinko
05/21/2011

Brazil is a country of continental dimensions with widespread regional and social inequalities. In this report, we examine the historical development and components of the Brazilian health system, focusing on the reform process during the past 40 years, including the creation of the Unified Health System. A defining characteristic of the contemporary health sector reform in Brazil is that it was driven by civil society rather than by governments, political parties, or international organisations. The advent of the Unified Health System increased access to health care for a substantial proportion of the Brazilian population, at a time when the system was becoming increasingly privatised. Much is still to be done if universal health care is to be achieved. Over the past 20 years, there have been other advances, including investments in human resources, science and technology, and primary care, and a substantial decentralisation process, widespread social participation, and growing public awareness of a right to health care. If the Brazilian health system is to overcome the challenges with which it is presently faced, strengthened political support is needed so that financing can be restructured and the roles of both the public and private sector can be redefined.

Fine particulate matter pollution linked to respiratory illness in infants and increased hospital costs

Fine particulate matter pollution linked to respiratory illness in infants and increased hospital costs
Health Aff (Millwood). 2011 May;30(5):871-8.

Sheffield P, Roy A, Wong K, Trasande L.
05/01/2011

There has been little research to date on the linkages between air pollution and infectious respiratory illness in children, and the resulting health care costs. In this study we used data on air pollutants and national hospitalizations to study the relationship between fine particulate air pollution and health care charges and costs for the treatment of bronchiolitis, an acute viral infection of the lungs. We found that as the average exposure to fine particulate matter over the lifetime of an infant increased, so did costs for the child's health care. If the United States were to reduce levels of fine particulate matter to 7 percent below the current annual standard, the nation could save $15 million annually in reduced health care costs from hospitalizations of children with bronchiolitis living in urban areas. These findings reinforce the need for ongoing efforts to reduce levels of air pollutants. They should trigger additional investigation to determine if the current standards for fine-particulate matter are sufficiently protective of children's health.

The Oxford Handbook of Health Economics

The Oxford Handbook of Health Economics
Oxford University Press.

Glied, Sherry and Peter C. Smith
04/07/2011

The Oxford Handbook of Health Economics provides an accessible and authoritative guide to health economics, intended for scholars and students in the field, as well as those in adjacent disciplines including health policy and clinical medicine. The chapters stress the direct impact of health economics reasoning on policy and practice, offering readers an introduction to the potential reach of the discipline. Contributions come from internationally-recognized leaders in health economics and reflect the worldwide reach of the discipline. Authoritative, but non-technical, the chapters place great emphasis on the connections between theory and policy-making, and develop the contributions of health economics to problems arising in a variety of institutional contexts, from primary care to the operations of health insurers. The volume addresses policy concerns relevant to health systems in both developed and developing countries. It takes a broad perspective, with relevance to systems with single or multi-payer health insurance arrangements, and to those relying predominantly on user charges; contributions are also included that focus both on medical care and on non-medical factors that affect health. Each chapter provides a succinct summary of the current state of economic thinking in a given area, as well as the author's unique perspective on issues that remain open to debate. The volume presents a view of health economics as a vibrant and continually advancing field, highlighting ongoing challenges and pointing to new directions for further progress.

Climate Change and Human Health in Cities

Climate Change and Human Health in Cities
in Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN), First UCCRN Assessment Report on Climate Change in Cities (ARC3), edited by C. Rosenzweig, W. D. Solecki, S. A. Hammer, and S. Mehrotra. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011, forthcoming, pp. 183-217

M. Barata (Rio de Janeiro), E. Ligeti (Toronto), Coordinating Lead Authors and G. De Simone (Rio de Janeiro), T. Dickinson (Toronto), D. Jack (New York City), J. Penney (Toronto), M. Rahman (Dhaka), and R. Zimmerman (New York City.)
04/01/2011

Massachusetts Links Pay for Performance to the Reduction of Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Massachusetts Links Pay for Performance to the Reduction of Racial and Ethnic Disparities
Health Affairs. 30(6):1165-1175.

Blustein, Jan, Joel Weissman, Andrew M Ryan, Tim Doran and Romana Hasnain-Wynia.
04/01/2011

The Institute of Medicaid has identified equity as a key dimension of quality. Recently, Massachusetts’ Medicaid program (MassHealth) took the unusual step of linking pay-for-performance (P4P) to the reduction of racial/ethnic disparities for hospital care.  We report on early experience with the program, describing the challenges of implementing an ambitious program in a short time frame, with limited resources.  Our findings raise questions about whether P4P as currently constituted is a suitable tool for addressing disparities in hospital care.

Health and Social Service Expenditures: Associations with Health Outcomes

Health and Social Service Expenditures: Associations with Health Outcomes
BMJ - Quality and Safety. Mar 29 epub, In Press.

Elizabeth Bradley, Benjamin Elkins, Jeph Herrin and Brian Elbel.
03/29/2011

Objective To examine variations in health service expenditures and social services expenditures across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and assess their association with five population-level health outcomes.

Design A pooled, cross-sectional analysis using data from the 2009 release of the OECD Health Data 2009 Statistics and Indicators and OECD Social Expenditure Database.

Setting OECD countries (n=30) from 1995 to 2005.

Main outcomes Life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, low birth weight, maternal mortality and potential years of life lost.

Results Health services expenditures adjusted for gross domestic product (GDP) per capita were significantly associated with better health outcomes in only two of five health indicators; social services expenditures adjusted for GDP were significantly associated with better health outcomes in three of five indicators. The ratio of social expenditures to health expenditures was significantly associated with better outcomes in infant mortality, life expectancy and increased potential life years lost, after adjusting for the level of health expenditures and GDP.

Conclusion Attention to broader domains of social policy may be helpful in accomplishing improvements in health envisioned by advocates of healthcare reform.

 

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