New center to improve quality of U.S. health care

More than 150 participants, including Ted Kennedy Jr. and Connecticut community leaders, attended an event at Yale last Friday that explained the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the state’s residents and business owners.

Organized by the Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS) at Yale and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), the event, “Ready to Launch: The Affordable Care Act and U.S. Health Policy,” also marked the launch of ISPS Health at Yale, a center that draws on faculty from across the university to carry out policy-relevant research to improve the quality of health care.

“Health care spending is really the issue that will determine whether or not the United States is going to be financially secure over the next 50 years,” says Zack Cooper, assistant professor of public health and economics at Yale, and director of the new center.

“We wanted to create a community at Yale to study health care policy, produce extraordinary research, and connect the researchers with policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels, to improve the way health care is delivered in the U.S.,” he said.

Abbe Gluck, associate professor of law at Yale, is part of the policy center’s executive committee. She is particularly interested in helping ISPS Health at Yale make connections across the university, especially between the medical school, law school, and cancer center.

“Health by definition is an interdisciplinary field. No university can be a leader in the field without making the connections between law, policy, economics, and science. These are where some of the most exciting things in health are happening right now,” she said.

Gluck added that this is an excellent time for the university to start a new health initiative, as the ACA has focused national attention on these issues. A signature policy of the ACA went into effect Oct. 1, when the online marketplaces, or “exchanges,” opened for business.

Another important goal of ISPS Health at Yale is to encourage student participation in health policy. Gluck noted that the law school initiated a health law students association in 2012.

“There is also a lot of interest in the undergraduate community,” says Nina Russell, a junior studying ethics, politics, and economics at Yale, with a concentration in health economics.

“One just has to look at the number of student groups devoted to health care, such as the Public Health Coalition and the Global Health Fellows program,” she added.

Russell said that health care administration became an important subject to her following personal experiences she had in the United States and abroad. Initially she thought she might pursue a premedical degree, but shifted her focus to health care policy after attending programs presented by Cooper and Amanda Kowalski, assistant professor of economics at Yale, who is also on the policy center’s executive committee.

“I was fascinated by the research they were doing, and by the fact that people were approaching these problems in creative, collaborative ways,” Russell said.

She is currently working with Cooper on a research project. They are using economic theory and empirical data to predict the effects of price transparency on the health care market in the United States.

“Health policy has such a meaningful human rights and social justice component,” she added.

Russell noted that undergraduates at Yale can be involved in ISPS Health in a number of ways. She recommends attending or volunteering at events hosted by the center, such as the “Ready to Launch” program, as a good first step.

After graduation, Russell plans to pursue a Ph.D. in economics and a J.D., which will prepare her to develop and implement health policy in the United States.

“I’m interested in a career in public service, and health care is the best way that I can serve the broader American public,” she said.