Rethinking Food Assistance: From Evidence to Policy

It is hard for most of us to imagine going to bed hungry or worried that we can't feed our family because we lack money to do so. Unfortunately 15 percent of American households-48 million people-face this situation. For these people, food security-defined as having access to food at all times and enough food for an active, healthy life-is elusive.

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Categories: Food Security

Social Determinants of Health: Can We Address Equity with Communications?

Both having good health and coping with challenges to health are a journey. Inadequate resources make a successful journey harder. At an individual level, lack of personal resources such as income and knowledge, limit an individual's ability to follow optimal paths to health and vice versa. At a macro level, our society has a finite amount of resources - both monetary and serviceÔÇÉrelated - that realistically will not provide everything to everyone. We do not "naturally" think about health in terms of social factors. However, our health is significantly affected by our homes, jobs, and schools. The social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions—and their distribution among the population – that influence individual and group differences in health status.

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Want Better Evaluations? First Do This

The ultimate goal of policy analysis is to identify programs that work. Policymakers need to know: Does this program work? For whom does this program work? When does this program work? And would some variant of this program work better? To answer these questions, we need estimates of program impact; i.e., outcomes with the program relative to what outcomes would have been without the program. The "gold standard" approach to estimating impact is random assignment, but other methods are often appropriate.

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Can a Policy Innovation Help Families in Public Housing Build Assets and Increase Their Earnings?

Imagine if all recipients of federal rental assistance had access to a savings account that grew as their earnings grew. This shift could potentially lead to a range of benefits, including increased earnings; investments in education, homeownership and small businesses that materially enhance households' well-being; and improvements in mental health. Of course, we don't know for sure whether these outcomes would occur - like all significant policy changes, this policy innovation would need to be rigorously tested. But it's an idea that merits further exploration, especially since any increases in earnings induced by the policy change would generate increased rent revenue that could help offset program costs.

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