June Man of the Month: Marc Sommers, PhD

Robin Strongin

As a child, Marc loved looking at National Geographic magazines, especially at his Uncle’s home on New Year’s Day. That’s where young Marc went with his family to celebrate.  Not much for the adult conversation upstairs, Marc would slip away to the basement and lose himself in exotic photos of far-away places.  At 12, he decided he was going to go to the Serengeti.

marc sommers-head shot (2)Not only did he get there, but he has dedicated much of his adult life to working with young people, primarily in Africa—19 countries and counting.  Marc Sommers, who is fluent in Swahili, is an internationally recognized youth, conflict, education, gender, and development expert, an experienced evaluator, and an award-winning author. He has provided technical advice and policy analysis, and conducted research, assessments and evaluations in 21 war-affected countries.

Marc’s first position in Africa was as Headmaster of a girls’ high school in Kenya, at the ripe old age of 23. That experience was his initiation into gender issues—he had to, as he explained to me, “Defend my students.” (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

#SpacesOfHealth: Aging in Place [Recap]

Can a city help improve your health outcomes? Can a hospital make you sick? The #SpacesOfHealth campaign, brought to you by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, seeks to answer these and similar questions in a series of live webinars around the relationship between environment and health.

call outGone are the days when the thought of aging meant slowing down, a sure retirement and eventual disability. This thinking is being rewritten by baby boomers who want to enjoy their homes, embrace their communities, maintain an active lifestyle and “age in place” — that is, remain in their home of choice for as long as possible. According to the AARP, 87 percent of adults age 65 and older want to age in place. By renovating their homes, engaging in the “village” model, and using innovative solutions, it is now possible for aging adults to safely stay in their homes longer. But more needs to be done on both the community and government levels to make this a reality for more people in all economic brackets.

To explore the issues surrounding the aging in place movement, the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University hosted a webinar as part of the #SpacesOfHealth series. Aging in place advocates and experts in the field of home care, long-term care and aging policy discussed the intersection of the nation’s aging population, and the innovations and opportunities that exist that will allow older adults to age on their terms. Below are the panelists who participated in the webinar and the key takeaways from the discussion.

(more…)


Subscribe to our newsletter

Improving Maternal Health in the U.S. and Around the World

Sophia Headshot_Sep15Since 1990, the United States is the only World Health Organization (WHO) region that has actually had an increase in maternal deaths. Although many think that maternal health problems are isolated to the developing world, challenges persist in our country. This is despite spending the most in the world on hospitalization for pregnancy and childbirth. In contrast, the countries that have been most successful in reducing maternal deaths have often achieved these results by using a midwifery model of care—an example that the U.S. may benefit from. Midwifery programs provide advanced education and training to support this model, and studies highlight the positive outcomes that result. Here, we’ll examine why maternal health may be getting worse in the U.S. and solutions that may offer better results. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Concussions: A Girls’ Health Problem

Julie-PotyrajFor many people, the connection between sports and concussions will come as no surprise. Within the past few months, concussions have had a continued presence in the media, mostly as they pertain to professional football. Intentionally or not, the NFL has been leading the charge on concussion awareness for the past several years. In 2014, documents were brought to federal court saying that a third of all retired NFL players were expected to develop a “long-term cognitive problem” at some point in their lives as a result of head injuries from football. Recently, a court finally affirmed the deal for the NFL to compensate all players who had suffered neurological damage as a result of these injuries. While this represents an important victory for former athletes, the battle to improve concussion prevention has only just begun.

Because of the popularity of professional football in the United States, the NFL often dominates the public discourse on concussions. But by framing the conversation about concussions around football, we are alienating one of the most vulnerable populations: girls. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

  • April 4th, 2016 Health Policy Grief
    By Glenna Crooks
  • Rooming In: The Newest Birthing Controversy

    ec_crop (1)Hot on the heels of media stories about the importance of screening for post-partum depression, a debate about whether to have newborns stay in hospital rooms with their moms vs. providing nursery care for the infants is emerging. It’s an interesting topic, but binary responses to the debate do little to recognize that “one size fits all” solutions may not be sound.

    The benefits of rooming in instead of providing nursery care are well known. Both research-based and anecdotal reports suggest that rooming in correlates to a lower incidence of post-partum depression in new mothers and reduced breastfeeding problems for both mother and baby. Babies also appear to be less subject to jaundice. It has also been observed that rooming-in babies seem more content and cry less while mothers bond better with their babies and feel more competent in caring for them when they return home. Proponents argue as well that rooming in offering mothers more rest time because they are not anxious about what’s going on in the nursery. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Women, Children and Water

    Pat Ford Roegner

    Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: February 2016 reports that 64% of Americans have closely followed the news about the lead contamination of Flint, Michigan’s water supply, its likely effects on public health in that city, and the long road ahead as Flint struggles to restore a safe water supply. The same survey found nearly eight in 10 Americans are concerned about the safety of the water in low-income communities across the U.S.

    But even the challenges facing one mid-sized American city pale when we see World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.2 billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water, with an additional 2.6 billion lacking adequate sanitation services.

    The United Nations estimates that by 2025, 2.8 billion people will face water scarcity in 48 countries worldwide. Closer to home, is Flint just the beginning of a water supply nightmare for low-income communities across North America?

    As the news from Flint unfolded in recent weeks, I was reading a paper – of which my daughter Amber is a co-author – about the potential for natural grasses to filter the waters on Lake Victoria near Kisumu, Kenya. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Take Your Own Advice! U.S. Should Pay More Attention to STD Prevention Programs Abroad

    Julie-PotyrajMost sexually transmitted diseases are preventable. That’s one reason it’s so upsetting that one in four sexually active girls in the United States has one. Out of the 19 million new STD cases annually in the U.S., almost half are among people ages 15 to 24. And those statistics only represent the number of reported cases; many more infections go undocumented. Despite the clear need for STD prevention strategies among young people, current efforts are scattered and inconsistent across the U.S. While 23 states require sex education, only 13 states require that the information be “medically accurate.” Even when sex education is taught in schools, many states require an emphasis on abstinence. But are these abstinence-only programs really helping to reduce STDs in younger generations? Simply put, no.

    Comprehensive sex education, using the example of Zambia

    For elementary and middle school students at Chadiza Basic School in the Eastern Province of Zambia, every day begins with a prayer. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Women in Healthcare: Of Leaky Pipes and Sluggish Middles

    DW Vegas HIMSS v2-01

    Corporate America is not on a path to gender equality, which, even purely economically speaking, is a matter of considerable urgency. These findings are based on a recent Women in the Workplace survey McKinsey conducted in partnership with LeanIn.org — involving 30,000 employees surveyed and data from 118 companies of which 10 are from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries — to better understand the context and the path to gender equality.

    Healthcare vs. Other Sectors

    Relative to other sectors such as automotive and industrial, and electronics/technology hardware, the healthcare sector in the US fares better both in accessing talent and representation of women at every level of the organization, based on our research. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Dying to Get an Education

    Meryl Bloomrosen

    Public policy and public health efforts are underway to help assure that people can be healthy where they live, work, and play.  As part of providing education, schools are supposed to protect the health and safety of students.   Various government and non-government organizations (NGOs) offer resources, toolkits and evidence-based resources to help school districts, schools, and school personnel deal with health emergencies, such as life threatening conditions like asthma.  Guidelines indicate that schools should have:  a policy or rule that allows students to carry and use their own asthma medicines; written emergency plan(s) for teachers and staff to follow to take care of a student who has an asthma attack; and standing orders and quick-relief medicines for students’ use.[1] [2]

    In the last few days, I read with admiration about middle and high school students setting aside any personal trepidation and potential disciplinary action to help fellow classmates who were having asthma attacks. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Food, Health and Public Policy

    Meryl Bloomrosen

    I am someone who has worked for many years “inside the Beltway” (aka Washington DC), who admittedly wears the “policy wonk” hat, and was a (long distance) caregiver for elderly parents in the last years of their lives, one of whom faced eating related complications and consequences.   Because of these experiences I advocate on behalf of people who live with chronic diseases.  I appreciate more than ever how important it is to comprehensively explore issues related to public health topics such as obesity, food insecurity, food labeling, food literacy, and food shopping.  Indeed, the intersection of social factors, community, education, environment, behavior and health are prominent components of current health policy discussions and activities. [1] [2] [3]

    The prominent health policy publication, Health Affairs recently devoted its November 2015 issue to Food and Health.  However, most noticeably and disappointingly absent in the discussions about food and heath were the perspectives, values and needs of people living with the challenges of chronic, life threatening and incurable food related diseases, such as food allergies[4].  Food allergies present significant health burdens for patients and their families and caregivers. Public policies related to food and health must consider diverse patient perspectives and values based on their unique circumstances and life goals. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Meet Disruptive Woman to Watch: Tanya Jones

    tanya-c-jones2Never underestimate what a memory from one’s youth can set in motion.

    At a 2014 Disruptive Women in Health Care forum, Tanya C. Jones talked about her memories of a trip she took with her parents to rural parts of Africa.  What stayed with her were the dire conditions and the realization that people in remote areas with limited access to conventional services and infrastructure needed both skill building and access to modern telecommunications.

    Today, as President of Aya Global, a philanthropic advisory practice, this Disruptive Woman to Watch for 2016, is offering strategic guidance to institutions and individuals and helping them reach their philanthropic goals.  Reaching back to her memories of that trip with her parents, she has devoted the last several years to improving the health of women and children in rural communities of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as an implementer, fundraiser and funder. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Meet Disruptive Woman to Watch: Carolyn Clancy, MD

    clancyWhen the Obama Administration sought top-quality healthcare leaders to assume prominent roles of responsibility in the beleaguered Veterans Administration, it came as no surprise to anyone that Carolyn Clancy, M.D. was one of those tapped to move to the VA.

    After a decade as head of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (and we’ll get back to how profoundly she reshaped that organization), this Disruptive Woman to Watch was named VA Interim Undersecretary for Health and then Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Health before moving into her current role as the Chief Medical Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    It didn’t take long for her to make an impact on the healthcare our nation provides to its military veterans.  Here’s one example.  Under the previous VA administration, it was reported that certain medical facilities got the nickname “Candy Land” because of their propensity for handing out painkilling medications.  In fact, a report noted that opiate prescriptions had more than quintupled over an eight-year period even as the number of patients declined. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    A Thoughtful Discussion on Drug Pricing and Innovation

    Mary R. Grealy

    This post first appeared October 5 on the Prognosis Blog.

    There has been a lot of talk of late about the price of prescription drugs.  Most of it, unfortunately, has come in the form of 30-second sound bites, largely driven by one hedge fund investor’s decision to significantly raise the price of a single product.

    Determining the correct price for an innovative, life-changing product to achieve both consumer accessibility as well as a return on investment, which is vital to fund future research and development, is a complex topic that warrants a thoughtful discussion, not glib attack lines.

    Credit, then, goes to the Washington Post for its lengthy question-and-answer article with Joseph Jimenez, the CEO of Novartis, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.  In the interview, Jimenez made, I believe, several striking and instructive points.  Among them: (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    In the Operating Room There Are No Politics

    Lisa-Suennen-photoThe post below first appeared on Venture Valkyerie on August 23.

    I rarely tread into the political, but during this time of extreme political rhetoric bordering on insanity, I have seen two things in the last week that brought home what is such an important and ironic point. The first was this poster, which I happened across in the lobby of the American Heart Association’s national headquarters:Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 12.04.01 PM

    It’s a poster that I suspect was created during a time of debate about the ACA, focusing as it does on lifetime limits on benefits, which were eliminated with passage of the ACA. The focus of the poster, of course, is how important it is to write policy by starting with patient needs and putting politics aside.

    The other item that got me to this particular blog post was a Huffington Post story today about candidate Rand Paul, who happens to be an opthamologist. The article talks about how, while other candidates were at the Iowa State Fair giving farm kids helicopter rides and eating meat on sticks, Dr. Paul was giving free cataract surgeries to Haitians. The quote that caught my attention was this, “In the operating room there are no politics,” according to the candidate. I’m sure his visit to Haiti was timed for political reasons, but the words still matter because they are right. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter