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The Healthiest Communities Are Built on Education, Good Food, Mindfulness, and the Power of Love

Be the change you wish to see in the world, Gandhi has been attributed as saying. This sentiment was echoed by Lauren Singer as we brainstormed the social determinants of health and the factors that underpin healthy communities. Our Facebook Live session was convened by the Aetna Foundation, which sponsored research on the Healthiest Communities in 2018.  In addition to Lauren, founder of Trash Is For Tossers, Dr. Garth Graham, President of the Aetna Foundation, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education at UCLA, and I joined the quartet, moderated with panache and sensitivity by Mark J. Ellwood, journalist. Each

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Guns, Jobs, or Health Care? In 2018, Voters Split as to Top Issue

It’s a fairly even split between voting first on gun policy, jobs, or healthcare for the 2018 mid-term elections, ac cording to the May 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. Arguably, gun policy can cut in two ways: in light of the Stoneman Douglas High School shootings and wake-up call for #NeverAgain among both students and the public-at-large, vis-a-vis Second Amendment issue voters. And, as a growing public health issue, “guns” could also be adjacent to health. “If it isn’t a health problem, then why are all these people dying from it?” rhetorically asked Dr. Garen Wintemute, professor of emergency

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Sounds Like A John Denver Song: Virginia and Colorado Towns Rank High As Healthy Communities

If it’s true that “your ZIP code is more important than your genetic code,” you’d look for a job in 22046, buy a house there, and plant your roots. You’d find yourself in Falls Church, Virginia, named number one in the Healthiest Communities rankings of 500 U.S. towns. You can see a list of all of the communities here. The project is a collaboration between the Aetna Foundation and U.S. News & World Report, with help from the University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) and a team from the National Committee on Vital and Health

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How We Spend Versus What We Get: America’s Healthcare Spending Makes for Poor Health

The U.S. spent nearly twice as much as other wealthy countries on healthcare, mostly due to higher prices for both labor and products (especially prescription drugs). And, America spends more on administrative costs compared to other high-income countries. What do U.S. taxpayers get in return for that spending? Lower life spans, higher maternal and infant mortality, and the highest level of obesity and overweight among our OECD peer nations. These sobering statistics were published in Health Care Spending in the United States and Other High-Income Countries this week in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study analyzes

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Add Behavioral Data to Social Determinants For Better Patient Understanding

“Health agencies will have to become at least as sophisticated as other consumer/retail industries in analyzing a variety of data that helps uncover root causes of human behavior,” Gartner recommended in 2017. That’s because “health” is not all pre-determined by our parent-given genetics. Health is determined by many factors in our own hands, and in forces around us: physical environment, built environment, and public policy. These are the social determinants of health, but knowing them even for the N of 1 patient isn’t quite enough to help the healthcare industry move the needle on outcomes and costs. We need to

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Calling Out Health Disparities on Martin Luther King Day 2018

On this day appreciating the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I post a photo of him in my hometown of Detroit in 1963, giving a preliminary version of the “I Have a Dream” speech he would deliver two months later in Washington, DC. Wisdom from the speech: “But now more than ever before, America is forced to grapple with this problem, for the shape of the world today does not afford us the luxury of an anemic democracy. The price that this nation must pay for the continued oppression and exploitation of the Negro or any other minority group

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Nurses Rate Highest for Ethics in American Professions Once Again in Gallup Poll

Nurses working in the U.S. are number one when it comes to ethics and honesty, the Gallup Poll found for the sixteenth year in a row. After nurses, military officers, grade school teachers, medical doctors and pharmacists rank second through fifth in ethical-line behind top-rated nursing. It’s important to note that consumers have ranked pharmacists and doctors in second and third place in this annual survey for many years. This year, both professions fall below the military and teachers. Nurses have been #1 in this study every year since Gallup launched the survey in 1999, except for 2001 when firefighters topped

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Healthier Eating Is the Peoples’ Health Reform: the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index

The top healthiest eating communities tend to circle the perimeter of the map of the lower 48 U.S. states. In these towns, more than 72% of health citizens report healthy eating. These areas are located in California, Florida, and Massachusetts, among others. Areas with the lowest rates of healthy eating are concentrated generally south of the Mason-Dixon Line, in places like Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi, and other states. In these places, fewer than 57% of people eat healthy. Eating healthy foods in moderation is a mighty contributor to personal and public health, discussed in the report, State of American Well-Being

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The Power of Joy in Health and Medicine – Learning From Dr. Regina Benjamin

Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin was the first person who quoted to me, “Health isn’t in the doctor’s office. It’s where people live, work, play and pray,” imparting that transformational mantra to me in her 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times. I wrote about that lightbulb moment here in Health Populi. Dr. Benjamin was the 18th Surgeon General, appointed by President Obama in 2009. As “America’s Doctor,” she served a four-year term, her mission focused on health disparities, prevention, rual health, and children’s health. Today, Dr. Benjamin wears many hats: she’s the Times Picayune/NOLA.com professor of medicine at

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Building Health Bridges — Health:Further Goes Beyond the Disruptive

Most people in the U.S. acknowledge that their richest country in the world has a broken healthcare system, especially when it comes to costs. A handful of think tanks and lawmakers offer fixes for American healthcare. Now there’s a new problem-solver in healthcare town, Health:Further, and they aim to move U.S. health forward by building bridges between stakeholders in the U.S. health ecosystem. My longtime colleague and friend, Andre Blackman of Pulse+Signal, has joined the organization as “Producer.” Here, we’ll learn more from my (JSK) interview with Andre (AB) about the organization, their mission, and plans to go beyond “disruption”

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Social Determinants Impact Health More Than Health Care

The factors of where people are born, live, work and age — social determinants — shape human health more than health care. Yet in the U.S. much more resource per capita is funneled into healthcare services than into social ones. Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity was published by The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured in November 2015, calling attention to the opportunity and wisdom of baking health into all public policy. The social determinants of health (SDOH) include economic stability, the physical environment and neighborhood, education, food, community and

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Sports and the Internet of Things: the Scoop & Score podcast

From elite soccer and football fields to youth athletes in public school gyms, wearable technology has come to sports bringing two big benefits of gathering data at the point of exercise: to gauge performance and coach back to the athlete in real time, and to prevent injury. I discussed the advent of the Internet of Things in sports on the Scoop and Score podcast with Andrew Kahn, sports journalist and writer, and Stephen Kahn, sports enthusiast and business analyst. [In full disclosure these two Kahn’s are also my brilliant nephews.] We recorded the podcast on July 14, 2015, the day

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#OwnYourHealth: Health is everywhere, even underground

Living my mantra of Health is Everywhere, where we live, work, play, pray, and shop, I am always on the lookout for signs of health in my daily life. Today I’m in Washington, DC,  speaking on a webinar led by the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), discussing the findings in a survey of U.S. adults on self-care health care – my shorthand for healthcareDIY. And the hashtag for the webinar also speaks volumes: #OwnYourHealth. Here’s the link to the survey resources. On my walk from Farragut North Metro station to a nearby office where the meeting will take place,

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Nurses are consumers’ trusted partners-in-health

The two most trusted health professionals in the eyes of U.S. consumers are nurses and pharmacists, and both of these health workers will be key partners for people wanting to engage in health/care. That was my introductory message kicking off the annual conference of ANIA, the American Nursing Informatics Association, in Philadelphia on April 24, 2015. Meeting in the City of Brotherly Love gave ANIA the opportunity to theme the meeting a “Declaration of Nursing Informatics,” carrying that theme through the exhibition hall with a Benjamin Franklin lookalike walking the floor availing himself of attendees’ requests for selfie-taking with the

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Building the health ecosystem: new bedfellows coming together

2015 is already becoming a year where bedfellows of different stripes are joining together to build a health care ecosystem well beyond hospitals, doctors and health plans. Announcements launched last week at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and coming out this week at the J.P. Morgan Conference in San Francisco, the first two weeks of 2015 reveal that new entrants and legacy health stakeholders are crossing corporate and cultural chasms to (try and) solve challenges that prevent us from getting to that Holy Grail of The Triple Aim: improving health care outcomes, driving down per capita costs,

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Stress Is US

“Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it,” Lily Tomlin once quipped. Perhaps in 2014, America is the land of stress because we’re all so in touch with reality. THINK: reality TV, social networks as the new confessional, news channeling 24×7, and a world of too much TMI. So no surprise, then, that one-half of the people in the U.S. have had a major stressful event or experience in the last year. And health tops the list of stressful events in This American Life in the forms of illness and disease (among 27% of people)

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The business case for getting more social in health

While the U.S. spends more per person on health care than any other country in the world, we get a very low return on that investment. Other countries whose health citizens enjoy significantly better health outcomes spend less on health “care” (beds, technology, doctors’ salaries) and more per capita on social services and supports. There’s growing evidence that social factors impact health, and a business case to be made for spending more on social. The evidence and argument for providers spending more on social needs is explained in the research paper, Addressing Patients’ Social Needs: An Emerging Business Case for

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World No Tobacco Day v2014 – let’s raise (more) taxes on tobacco

Tomorrow is World No Tobacco Day. The use of tobacco is one of the most preventable public health issues on the planet. And the global tobacco epidemic contributed to 100 million deaths around the world in the 20th century. 6 million people die every year due to tobacco use — including 600,000 deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke. About 500 million people living today will be dead from the use of tobacco products if current smoking habits continue, the World Health Organization (WHO) expects. WHO sponsors the World No Tobacco Day every year on May 31. For this year’s

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Human capital is health capital – RIP Gary Becker

“Economy is the art of making the most of life,” Gary Becker said. This Big Thinker in economics has died, and he helped shape how economists – and specifically health economists – view the world. Gary Becker was an economist who lived and thought about the real world: how we earn money, how we learn, how we live, and how our local environment impacts us. He taught at the University of Chicago, but lectured around the world. I was fortunate enough to meet him, twice, and attend his talks. While as an economist, he was masterful with numbers, he complemented

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7 Women and 1 Man Talking About Life, Health and Sex – Health 2.0 keeping it real

Women and binge drinking…job and financial stress…sleeplessness…caregiving challenges…sex…these were the topics covered in Health 2.0 Conference’s session aptly called “The Unmentionables.” The panel on October 1, 2013, was a rich, sobering and authentic conversation among 7 women and 1 man who kept it very real on the main stage of this mega-meeting that convenes health technology developers, marketers, health providers, insurers, investors, patient advocates, and public sector representatives (who, sadly, had to depart for Washington, DC, much earlier than intended due to the government shutdown). The Unmentionables is the brainchild of Alexandra Drane and her brilliant team at the Eliza

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A tale of vaccines, public school, and family medical rights

This is a personal post about a very personal idea: medical rights and freedom of choice. When it has to do with your child, especially when she is a minor, then it’s ever-the-more personal. I have permission to use my daughter’s name, Anna, for this post. Anna’s public high school hosted a flu vaccine clinic this week. As I believe and live the mantra that health is where we live, work, play and pray — that health is not locked up isolated in a doctor’s office or hospital bed — I embrace the role that schools can play to bolster

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