The Joan H. Tisch Public Health Forum is an annual symposium at Roosevelt House focusing on national and New York City public health issues, including HIV/AIDS, obesity, diabetes, environmental health, health problems associated with poverty and aging, public mental health and national health reform.
Past Forums supported by the Joan H. Tisch Legacy Project include (click to read more about each):
This year’s Joan H. Tisch Forum examines why the U.S. urgently needs a coherent new unified strategy to confront these burgeoning domestic and international crises. Drawing on lessons from FDR’s “Grand Strategy,” this approach calls for a renewed focus on collaboration across borders to find smart solutions to a broad range of global threats to health, the environment and international prosperity.
The fourth annual Joan H. Tisch Public Health Forum: Can City Food Policies Reduce Disparities? Lessons from New York and London presented an informative panel discussion to explore what cities can and should do to make a difference to health inequities through food-related policies. Both the US and the UK are currently experiencing obesity epidemics. The health consequences of food-related illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and cancer are well documented, as are health disparities among different populations related to these diseases. This program examined the benefits and challenges of addressing disparities through food policies and the role of municipal governments in tackling this issue.
In collaboration with Hunter President Raab and Fay Rosenfeld, Director of Programs, Operations and Development at Roosevelt House, Dr. Benjamin organized the fall 2011 Joan H. Tisch Public Health Forum entitled “The Role of Public Policy as a Health Improvement Tool” which was held at Roosevelt House on December 14. The informative lunchtime discussion explored the wide-ranging impact of New York City’s significant health policy initiatives, including food environment policies (such as the trans-fat ban and calorie count restaurant displays), increased bicycle paths, increasingly aggressive anti-smoking policies, improved access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and a novel registry to track diabetes control. The program, followed by a lively and informative Q & A session, examined the current and potential impact of these and other public policies on improving health locally and across the nation, as well as broader returns on investment.
Moderated by Dr. Benjamin, the discussion featured three prominent national and local health policy leaders representing the media, foundations, and health care institutions:
- Richard Besser, Chief Health and Medical Editor, ABC News and former Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- James Marks, Senior Vice President and Director, Health Group, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former Assistant Surgeon General
- Bruce Vladeck, Senior Advisor, Nexera, Inc. (a health care consulting and project management service) and former President of the United Hospital Fund of New York
The participants discussed the fact that our nation is undergoing a significant debate about how best to improve the health of its citizens. Much of that debate has been around insurance coverage and reform. While this is important, much of what influences the degree of healthiness of individuals and communities is actually outside the traditional health system. Health is about our housing; where we dump our trash; access to clean, affordable and safe food, water and air; how we build our communities in terms of their ability to support active living; and the presence of economic opportunity. These factors are affected by public policy decisions and therefore can be used strategically and on a population basis to improve health. New York City has used this approach to great effect. It has relied on the findings of community health surveys to determine health priorities and then developed many of the city’s most significant policy initiatives. This forum was a spirited discussion and debate about the relative importance of these various determinants of health. In the end, it was clear that the benefits of using broad public policy to improve health are significant and essential to improving the health of our nation.
The second Joan H. Tisch Public Health Forum took place at Roosevelt House on the afternoon of December 8, 2010. It featured a luncheon address by Dr. Peter Orszag, noted economist and former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration, about the economic implications of health care reform, entitled “Health Care and our Fiscal Future.” The program was attended by over 70 guests, who were selected from lists of highly influential New Yorkers in a wide range of spheres, including health care, business, philanthropy and education, among others.
Dr. Orszag’s lecture, which was followed by a lively and informative Q&A session, highlighted the major problems within the current healthcare system, namely, rising medical costs, variation in spending and quality of care, and the lack of evidence-based medical guidelines to better inform medical protocols and practice. He also touched upon promising aspects of the stimulus bill and health care legislation, including the emphasis on technology and feedback systems. The stimulus bill will help create a system based on evidence-based best practices and bringing these best practices to-scale. He noted:
“We are in an increasingly polarized Washington D.C. for a variety of reasons… Inertia is always a powerful force but when there is polarization it is incredibly powerful. So, in this process of trying things and then moving to scale, we need an approach in which we can do that and have inertia act in favor of cost containment and quality improvement, rather than reverse. Right now the system is flipped on its head.”
He recommended that Congress push for a more positive discussion about moving towards evidence based medicine and add legislation that would streamline medical malpractice processes.
On April 6, 2010, Roosevelt House hosted FDR’s Legacy and Health Care Reform, a panel discussion on the past and future of health care reform. The discussion featured talks by Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and President and Chief Executive Officer of Tufts Health Plan. The discussion was moderated by Dr. John McDonough, Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at Roosevelt House.
To listen to the program, please click here.