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 service‐related - 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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The Role of #SocialMedia in #PolicyResearch

Social media is replete with promotions, half-truths, and blatant falsehoods. Pith triumphs over validity and nuance. So social media seems like the last place to advance the cause of rigorous social, economic, environmental, or health policy research, which is at the core of Abt Associates' mission.

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Climate Change: A Tipping Point in Paris

My expectations weren't high as I headed toward Paris earlier this month for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris (COP21). Frankly, I'd been jaded by the lack of progress on climate change over the last 20 years.

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Stay Tuned: More on Ethiopia’s Experience in Community-Based Health Insurance

In a blog post following the conference in Rotterdam on universal health coverage in Africa, Bruno Meessen of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp debated whether voluntary health insurance behaves like a "zombie, shot many times but always coming back." Is this true? Are there exceptions where voluntary schemes perform well?

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Administrative Data: When Is It Useful for Estimating Impact?

In early October, we had the pleasure of participating in a meeting sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services entitled "The Promises and Challenges of Administrative Data in Social Policy Research." Consistent with the title of the meeting, the presentations emphasized both the promise of using administrative data for policy analysis and the real challenges of doing so: getting access to the data, understanding what it means, verifying that it is sufficient for the intended purpose.

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From Middle to Golden Age: What the Future of Evaluation Holds

I recently hit middle age: with that birthday, and given my projections, I have as many years behind me as I have ahead. In my professional life (I've spent the past 20 years as an evaluator of social welfare policies and programs), this landmark event has had me considering the future of our field. At the annual fall conferences of the American Evaluation Association (AEA; in Chicago, November 11-14) and of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM; in Miami, November 12-14), I recently had the opportunity to ask several scholars this question:  what does the future hold for the field of program evaluation?

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Climate Change: Meeting the Challenge of Our Time

Back when Abt Associates started analyzing and measuring environmental shifts, climate change wasn't even a well-known term. Today, it's the defining challenge of our time, threatening communities, infrastructure, systems and institutions worldwide - and demanding a global response.

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World Diabetes Day: Integrated Preventive Care is Worth the Investment

In 2014, global spending on diabetes reached US$ 612 billion - one in nine healthcare dollars worldwide. However, under-diagnosis, a lack of prevention, and the resulting high healthcare costs and productivity losses pose a challenge to global and national economies.

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