• A very brief and incomplete wrap-up of the National Health Policy Conference

    Some readers have asked how things went at the National Health Policy Conference and, in particular, at the media plenary I participated in. At the plenary, Ezra Klein and Merrill Goozner were very generous in their praise of TIE (I like their work too!), and my jokes seemed to work. Plus, I managed to make most of my points. So, it was an enjoyable hour-and-a-half. People said it went well and was interesting. I believe them.

    One thing Ezra said stuck in my head. Paraphrasing, he said that to the extent the public is not interested in policy, that’s not the public’s fault. That’s the media’s fault for not making it interesting. Ezra seems to have made it his mission to make policy more interesting and accessible.

    This is very close to the same message I was delivering to researchers. If policymakers and the media do not seem interested in or aware of policy-relevant research, that’s not their fault. That’s the research community’s fault for doing a poor job of dissemination. Our mission at TIE is to do a better job of informing the health policy debate with relevant research.

    Naturally, you might wonder what else Merrill, Ezra, or Trudy Lieberman said. To be honest, I was so busy making sure I didn’t make a fool of myself, I didn’t fully absorb much else, not clearly enough to risk trying to replicate any of it. You can catch a little in the intro to this interview of me on the RWJF NewPublicHealth blog. You can also dig through the conference tweets to find some about the plenary. They’re near the top since it was the last event of the conference.

    I did attend some other enjoyable sessions at the conference, but I don’t have much I want to say about them. I do, however, want to share what I thought was the coolest slide I saw, presented by Karen Guice of the Department of Defense. Here’s the military’s flying ICU:

    I don’t think we can ever do enough for America’s soldiers, but I am glad we can provide at least this for those who need it.


    • Thanks for that, Austin, very useful. Ezra is of course correct. It is quite nearly 100% the fault of researchers and the research community. There is some really interested research going on right now (AF4Q, perhaps??) that’s floating around but not yet published I don’t think working with focus groups of people about what they want and how to make them think about health policy more clearly. It is a “make them” problem. And it takes quite a lot of courage for health researchers to ignore what appear to be linear incentive schemes and work to do the things that need to be done to communicate. None of us does enough.

      • I know it seems hard to many, but it is not actually hard to be a more active participant in the news/policy cycle. It just takes (a) paying attention and noticing when some issue intersects your area of expertise and (b) emailing and/or tweeting relevant research to those who can give it visibility. Taking the time to write it up in a short, snappy way helps, but if you reach the right person (ahem) he or she may do that work. TIE isn’t the only place that does this. Sarah Kliff and Kevin Drum have shown they are both willing to read research papers.