2011 Annual Report / National

National Initiatives

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Health & Society Scholars (HSS) Program

NYAM completed its fourth year as the National Program Office for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars (HSS) program. The National Program Office manages the intensive and highly competitive educational program, which selects 12 post-doctoral and junior faculty scholars from a national pool to receive two years of training at one of six universities—Columbia University, Harvard University, University of California (San Francisco and Berkeley), University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Wisconsin-Madison—in the methods and interdisciplinary research strategies needed to understand the multiple determinants of health and health disparities.

Numerous scholars and alumni received prestigious honors and high profile media exposure during the year. David Van Sickle (2006-2008) was named a White House Champion of Change in Technology and Innovation for his dedication to developing new tools for public health and research; Allison Aiello (2003-2005) appeared as an expert guest on TV's The Dr. Oz Show discussing pandemic preparedness; Mark Hatzenbuehler (2010-2012) published two major journal articles that received widespread, national media attention (one on social environment linked to gay teen suicide and the other on the legalization of same-sex marriage potentially making gay men healthier); Natasha Schüll (2003-2005), an expert on gambling addictions, was interviewed on CBS's 60 Minutes by Lesley Stahl; and Wizdom Powell-Hammond (2005-2007) was selected as a White House Fellow in the Department of Defense for 2011/2012, following in the footsteps of fellow HSS alumnus Mehret Mandefro (2007-2009), who served as a White House Fellow in 2009/2010.

Also of note in 2011 is that Christine A. Bachrach, PhD, former Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at the National Institutes of Health, joined Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, NYAM President, as Co-Director of the National Program Office. For more information on the program, visit the HSS website.

Journal of Urban Health

Urban cultures in America and around the world are growing, and with this growth comes a unique set of health issues. Traditional public health and medical practices and methods must be adapted to respond to the urban population. NYAM's Journal of Urban Health, published six times per year, reflects NYAM's focus on the emerging field of urban health and epidemiology.

Important changes in patterns of disease and disability have been noted in urban populations, encouraging health professionals to expand their vision to include social and economic determinants of health as well as the influence of built and natural environments. For example, the parallel epidemics of substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, HIV, tuberculosis, and violence underscore the significance of such key factors as poverty, family disintegration, racial bias, and urban crowding in shaping the profile of urban morbidities.

The Journal of Urban Health addresses these health issues from clinical, community, and policy perspectives, filling a neglected niche in medical and health literature. In addition to original articles, the Journal publishes urban health data, book reviews, selected reports and proceedings from NYAM symposia, and classic papers that are important to building the knowledge base of the field.

Testimonials

"The RWJF Health & Society Scholars program allowed me to develop a strong interdisciplinary focus and to not be risk-averse in addressing complex population-health research questions that have implications for policy. I was among the first cohort of the Health & Society Scholars and will always be inspired by the goals of the program and the success it has garnered for researchers who want to address tough population-health issues."
-Allison Aiello, PhD, MS, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, University of Michigan