Social Policy

Growing Older in Hong Kong, New York and London

Growing Older in Hong Kong, New York and London
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. Hong Kong.

Chau, P. Woo, J. Gusmano, MK. Weisz, D. and Rodwin, VG.

Declining birth rates, increasing longevity and urbanization have created a new challenge for cities: how to respond to an ageing population. Although population ageing and urbanization are not new concerns for national governments around the world, the consequences of these trends for quality of life in cities has only recently started to receive attention from policy makers and researchers. Few comparative studies of world cities examine their health or long-term care systems; nor have comparisons of national systems for the provision of long-term care focused on cities, let alone world cities.

By extending the work of the CADENZA and World Cities Projects , this report investigates how three world cities -- Hong Kong, New York and London -- are coping with this challenge. These world cities are centers of finance, information, media, arts, education, specialized legal services and advanced business services, and contribute disproportionate shares of GDP to their national economies. But are these influential centers prepared to meet the challenge posed by the “revolution of longevity?” How will these world cities accommodate this revolutionary demographic change? Are they prepared to implement the health and social policy innovations that may be required to serve their residents, both old and young? Will they be able to identify the new opportunities that increased longevity may offer? Can they learn from one another as they seek to develop creative solutions to the myriad issues that arise? Finally, can other cities learn from the experience of these three cities as they confront this challenge?

To address these questions, we examine comparable data on the economic and health status of older persons, as well as the availability and use of health, social and long-term care across and within these cities. In the report “How Well Are Seniors in Hong Kong Doing? An International Comparison”, a first attempt was made to compare the situation in Hong Kong with five economically developed countries. This report extends this study by comparing the situation in Hong Kong with two other world cities—New York City and London, which are more comparable in terms of population size and economic characteristics.

Unravelling social capital: Disentangling a concept for Social Work

Unravelling social capital: Disentangling a concept for Social Work
British Journal of Social Work, 42(2), 353 – 370.

Hawkins, R. L. & Maurer, K.

Over several decades, social capital has gained intellectual currency as a means to understand the dynamics of individual and community resources. While prevalent in other disciplines, social capital, however, has been used less often in social work to inform practice or policy development. In this paper, we argue that social capital is an efficacious construct for integrating the separate aspects of social networks and support so as to analyse the by-product of social relationships in the field of social work. We draw distinctions between social capital and conceptualisations of social networks and support and explore the concepts of social capital and present the usefulness of the concept as an analytical and theoretical model for micro and macro practice. We purpose that understanding the role of social capital can help social workers connect individuals to resources, but that it can also be used as part of established practice models. We conclude that essential to using social capital is the understanding that the concept (i) is different and distinct from social networks and social support, (ii) has both positive and negative elements and (iii) operates at the individual, community and institutional levels and can be relevant in all social work settings.

The Cultural Contagion of Conflict

The Cultural Contagion of Conflict
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 367, no. 1589, pp. 692-703. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0304

Gelfand, M., G. Shteynberg, T. Lee, J. Lun, S. Lyons, C. Bell, J.Y. Chiao, C.B. Bruss, M. Al Dabbagh, Z. Aycan, A.H. Abdel-Latif, M. Dagher, H. Khashan, and N. Soomro

Anecdotal evidence abounds that conflicts between two individuals can spread across networks to involve a multitude of others. We advance a cultural transmission model of intergroup conflict where conflict contagion is seen as a consequence of universal human traits (ingroup preference, outgroup hostility; i.e. parochial altruism) which give their strongest expression in particular cultural contexts. Qualitative interviews conducted in the Middle East, USA and Canada suggest that parochial altruism processes vary across cultural groups and are most likely to occur in collectivistic cultural contexts that have high ingroup loyalty. Implications for future neuroscience and computational research needed to understand the emergence of intergroup conflict are discussed.

Valuing Improvement in Value Based Purchasing

Valuing Improvement in Value Based Purchasing
Circulation:  Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.  5:163-170  

Borden, William and Jan Blustein.


Medicare will soon implement hospital value-based purchasing (VBP), using a scoring system that rewards both achievement (absolute performance) and improvement (performance increase over time).  However, improvement is defined so as to give less credit to initial low performers than initial high performers.  Since initial low performers are disproportionately hospitals in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, these institutions stand to lose under Medicare’s VBP proposal. 



We developed an alternative improvement scale, and applied it to hospital performance throughout the US.   Using 2005-2008 Medicare process measures for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and heart failure (HF), we calculated hospital scores using Medicare’s proposal and our alternative.  Hospital performance scores were compared across 5 locational dimensions of socioeconomic disadvantage: poverty, unemployment, physician shortage, high school and college graduation rates.



Medicare’s proposed scoring system yielded higher overall scores for the most locationally advantaged hospitals for 4 out of 5 dimensions in AMI and 2 out of 5 for HF.  Using our alternative, differences in overall scores between hospitals in the most and least advantaged areas were attenuated, with locationally advantaged hospitals having higher overall scores for 3 out of 5 dimensions in AMI and 1 out of 5 dimensions for HF. 



Using an alternative VBP formula that reflects the principle of “equal credit for equal improvement,” resulted in a more equitable distribution of overall payment scores, which could allow hospitals in both socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged areas to succeed under VBP.



The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011

The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011
January 2012

Ballon, Hilary

Laying out Manhattan's street grid and providing a rationale for the growth of New York was the city's first great civic enterprise, not to mention a brazenly ambitious project and major milestone in the history of city planning. The grid created the physical conditions for business and society to flourish and embodied the drive and discipline for which the city would come to be known. Published to coincide with an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York celebrating the bicentennial of the Commissioners' 1811 Plan of Manhattan, this volume does more than memorialize such a visionary effort, it serves as an enduring reference full of rare images and information.

The Greatest Grid shares the history of the Commissioners' plan, incorporating archival photos and illustrations, primary documents and testimony, and magnificent maps with essential analysis. The text, written by leading historians of New York City, follows the grid's initial design, implementation, and evolution, and then speaks to its enduring influence. A foldout map, accompanied by explanatory notes, reproduces the Commissioners' original plan, and additional maps and prints chart the city's pre-1811 irregular growth patterns and local precedent for the grid's design. Constituting the first sustained examination of this subject, this text describes the social, political, and intellectual figures who were instrumental in remaking early New York, not in the image of old Europe but as a reflection of other American cities and a distinct New World sensibility. The grid reaffirmed old hierarchies while creating new opportunities for power and advancement, giving rise to the multicultural, highly networked landscape New Yorkers thrive in today.


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.

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.


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