U.Va. Professor Receives Grant to Address a Major Health Policy Issue Facing the U.S.

July 23, 2009 — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, a competitive, national funding program focused on addressing challenging health policy issues, has selected Eric M. Patashnik, professor of politics in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, to receive a grant for a research project on the politics of efforts to improve the use of evidence in medical decisions.

He received the three-year, $335,000 grant jointly with Alan S. Gerber of Yale University, Charles C. and Dorothea S. Dilley Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for Study of American Politics.

In addition, Patashnik and Gerber received a $150,000 grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation to support related research.

Patashnik, who is also associate director of the U.Va. Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, is among 16 scholars affiliated with major universities across the country who will receive a grant through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research program. The program challenges investigators to tackle major policy issues facing America today, as well as wide-ranging concerns about the nation's health and health care system.

"This program stimulates thinking that is creative and crosses disciplinary boundaries in search of solutions to vexing issues affecting health and health care in the United States," said David Mechanic, who leads the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, a program headquartered at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

The foundation created the program to support highly qualified researchers whose innovative and cutting-edge ideas promise to contribute meaningfully to improving health and health care policy. The program provides one of the few funding opportunities in the United States for investigator-initiated projects to generate scientific evidence and to identify a range of possible solutions to America's health policy challenges.

"I am very grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the opportunity to study how politics shapes the quality of health-care decisions in the United States," Patashnik said. "The effectiveness of many medical treatments and procedures remains unknown, despite the astonishing cost and technical sophistication of the health delivery system. Physicians, patients and payers often lack the information they need to identify what treatments work best for what conditions. As a political scientist, I want to examine whether public policy can solve this important problem."

In their project, "Inadequate Medical Evidence: Political Incentives and the Prospects for Sustainable Reform," Patashnik and Gerber will explore why past efforts to improve the medical evidence base in the U.S. have been unsuccessful. Through public opinion surveys, stakeholder interviews and case studies of the use of medical evidence in orthopedics and cardiology, they will examine the political influence of health care providers, patient advocacy groups and social elites. Results should provide fresh insights into the challenges that may emerge as the Obama administration adopts comparative effectiveness research as a strategy for controlling U.S. health care spending by reducing ineffective care.

"These awards are a great testament to Professor Patashnik's accomplishments," said Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of U.Va.'s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. "His research holds great promise for improving health care policy in America, an issue vital to our age."

For information about the RWJF Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research program visit www.investigatorawards.org.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years, the foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves.

About the Smith Richardson Foundation

The Smith Richardson Foundation, based in Westport, Conn., supports policy research in the realms of foreign and domestic public policy. Its mission is to contribute to important public debates and to address serious public policy challenges facing the United States. The foundation seeks to help ensure the vitality of our social, economic and governmental institutions. It also seeks to assist with the development of effective policies to compete internationally and to advance U.S. interests and values abroad.