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Panel explores real-world impact of health policy research

Apr. 2, 2015, 9:41 AM

Humility, persuasion and a good sense of timing are essential for translating health policy research into real world practice that actually improves the health of Americans, according to former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.

Phil Bredesen

Humility — because research is subject to the same limits as any other human endeavor. “Sometimes it’s just wrong,” Bredesen said Monday during a panel discussion at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Persuasion — because research will not convince people unless it “connects” with their lives and concerns. And timing — ideas for change are most likely to be accepted when a problem is ripe for a solution. “That’s when you can have a real impact and make things happen,” he said.

Co-panelist Jeffrey Selberg, MHA, executive director of the Peterson Center on Healthcare in New York, agreed. “We are superb when it comes to research,” he said, “But we’re not as good in terms of doing the things necessary to bring the health of our citizens to a healthier level.”

The panel was sponsored by the School of Medicine’s Department of Health Policy and by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.

Improving the health of Americans will require an integration of social and medical services, Selberg argued. And to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health care delivery, it’s critical to engage the patient — the consumer. “Bring who you’re serving into the room,” he said.

In his remarks, Bredesen, a health care executive before he served as mayor of Nashville and then Tennessee governor, referred to some of the ideas he spelled out in his 2010 book “Fresh Medicine: How to Fix Reform and Build a Sustainable Health Care System.”

“We live in a country, America, that has an unequal capacity to do research,” he said. “But connecting that research to achieving America’s goals has been more difficult. And I think it’s going to take the research community to take the lead in making that happen.”

Melinda Buntin, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Health Policy, introduced the panelists. Dexter Samuels, Ph.D., executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry, led the question-and-answer session.

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