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Article

Behavioral Interventions as Policy Instruments to Manage Household Water Use  

Leong Ching and Swee Kiat Tay

Water planners and policy analysts need to pay closer attention to the behavioral aspects of water use, including the use of nonprice measures such as norms, public communications, and intrinsic motivations. Empirical research has shown that people are motivated by normative as well as economic incentives when it comes to water. In fact, this research finds that after exposure to feedback about water use, adding an economic incentive (rebate) for reducing water use holds no additional power. In other cases, nonprice measures can be a way to increase the salience, and subsequently, effectiveness of any adopted pricing mechanisms. We review these empirical findings and locate them within more general literature on normative incentives for behavioral change. Given increasing water scarcity and decreasing water security in cities, policy planners need to make more room for normative incentives when designing rules for proenvironmental behavior.

Article

Do Households Respond to the Marginal or Average Price of Piped Water Services?  

Joseph Cook and Daniel Brent

Water utilities commonly use complex, nonlinear tariff structures to balance multiple tariff objectives. When these tariffs change, how will customers respond? Do customers respond to the marginal volumetric prices embedded in each block, or do they respond to an average price? Because empirical demand estimation relies heavily on the answer to this question, it has been discussed in the water, electricity, and tax literatures for over 50 years. To optimize water consumption in an economically rational way, consumers must have knowledge of the tariff structure and their consumption. The former is challenging because of nonlinear tariffs and inadequate tariff information provided on bills; the latter is challenging because consumption is observed only once and with a lag (at the end of the period of consumption). A large number of empirical studies show that, when asked, consumers have poor knowledge about tariff structures, marginal prices, and (often) their water consumption. Several studies since 2010 have used methods with cleaner causal identification, namely regression discontinuity approaches that exploit natural experiments across changes in kinks in the tariff structure, changes in utility service area borders, changes in billing periods, or a combination. Three studies found clear evidence that consumers respond to average volumetric price. Two studies found evidence that consumers react to marginal prices, although in both studies the change in price may have been especially salient. One study did not explicitly rule out an average price response. Only one study examined responsiveness to average total price, which includes the fixed, nonvolumetric component of the bill. There are five messages for water professionals. First, inattention to complex tariff schedules and marginal prices should not be confused with inattention to all prices: customers do react to changes in prices, and prices should remain an important tool for managing scarcity and increasing economic efficiency. Second, there is substantial evidence that most customers do not understand complex tariffs and likely do not respond to changes in marginal price. Third, most studies have failed to clearly distinguish between average total price and average volumetric price, highlighting the importance of fixed charges in consumer perception. Fourth, evidence as of late 2020 pointed toward consumers’ responding to average volumetric price, but it may be that this simply better approximates average total price than marginal or expected marginal prices; no studies have explicitly tested this. Finally, although information treatments can likely increase customers’ understanding of complex tariffs (and hence marginal price), it is likely a better use of resources to simplify tariffs and pair increased volumetric charges with enhanced customer assistance programs to help poor customers, rather than relying on increasing block tariffs.

Article

Intervention Approaches for Osteoarthritis  

Susan Hughes, Cheryl Der Ananian, and Andrew DeMott

Osteoarthritis (OA) currently affects 32.5 million people in the United States at a cost of $136.8 billion. The available literature on the epidemiology of OA shows that the number of people affected will increase exponentially by the year 2040, affecting 78.4 million people. There is an abundance of evidence that self-management and physical activity (PA) approaches improve multiple outcomes for individuals with arthritis. However, these programs are not widely accessible to the population that can benefit from them across the United States. Two national organizations—the arthritis program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administration on Community Living (ACL)—have established similar, but distinct, criteria for the review of evidence-based programs and seek to promote their dissemination. The CDC arthritis program has reviewed the evidence bases of arthritis-appropriate, evidence-based intervention programs and classified them as self-management or PA approaches. These “recognized” programs are recommended for national dissemination by the CDC. The ACL has also recognized several of the same programs by using its own criteria and classified them as Self-Management or Falls Prevention approaches. The different review criteria used by these two national public organizations present significant challenges for investigators who design interventions. The situation is further compounded by an investment in funding that hugely supports the discovery of interventions as opposed to the dissemination of interventions that have demonstrated efficacy. The National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis: 2020 Update presents a blueprint that includes nine strategies for improving public health outcomes among persons with OA. These recommendations should be considered by interventionists in the future when developing programs. Other areas that can substantially benefit from further research include weight management and weight loss, injury prevention, technology-based interventions, addressing comorbid conditions, and understanding program mechanisms of action. Finally, underscoring all of these approaches and common to them is the need to enroll underserved populations to improve health equity. Underserved populations disproportionately include African Americans, Hispanics, persons with low socioeconomic status, and persons who live in rural areas of the United States. Policy recommendations to render future approaches to improving health outcomes for persons with OA are (a) to increase funding for the dissemination of programs that demonstrated efficacy and effectiveness, (b) to increase the transparency of the review and funding processes across public agencies, and (c) to nurture, broker, and provide sustainable funding streams to maintain evidence-based programming for all persons with OA across the United States.

Article

Prevention of Suicide  

Danuta Wasserman

Around 700,000 people take their lives each year worldwide. Suicide accounts for approximately 1.3% of all deaths and therefore represents a major public health problem. The global age-standardized suicide rate is 9 per 100,000 population, yet there are large variations among genders, ages, countries, and world regions. The stress–vulnerability model of suicidal behaviors has been proposed to explain how a diathesis, developed through the influence of genetic and neurodevelopmental factors in relation to perinatal, postnatal, and life experiences, interacts with different risk and protective factors that either decrease or enhance the individual’s level of resilience to stress and suicidal risk. Public health suicide prevention strategies include suicide means restriction, reducing harmful substance use, promoting responsible media reporting, public-awareness campaigns, gatekeeper trainings, school-based interventions, crisis helplines, and postvention. Mental health strategies comprise identification, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons in distress and at risk for suicide. Multicomponent strategies that use a combination of evidence-based methods from public and mental health sectors are recommended. Future work should aim at enhancing the quality of epidemiological data, improving the research on protective and ideation-to-action factors, expanding the quantity and quality of data coming from low- and middle-income countries, and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of different suicide prevention strategies.

Article

Priming Healthcare for Health Equity Management  

Ebbin D. Dotson, Kimson E. Johnson, and Jada Irving

Health equity management (HEM) is defined as an actionable framework that supports the development of an industry-defining position for healthcare organizations and senior leaders to guide their business practices for investments in and financial gains from health equity. As healthcare leaders confront the disparate racial and ethnic burdens caused by the nation’s racialized societal history, making investments that increase health equity can help eliminate health disparities. To achieve health equity, leaders must cultivate a sense of interdependence among stakeholders and community members to effectively communicate the importance of collaboration, which is a shared understanding of the necessary actions that engage stakeholders around a central purpose. Achieving health equity forces healthcare systems to consider the notion that creating an equitable environment, where the costs of health inequity and barriers to achieving community and population health are shared with stakeholders and community members, might be addressed by the modification of certain management practices. HEM encompasses an applied management model to help healthcare organizations maximize their efforts to increase health equity for vulnerable populations. It provides a stepwise approach to help frame the social, economic, and educational changes necessary for leaders to invest in health equity initiatives. The HEM involves the following actions: (a) redefining health equity, (b) identifying upstream inequalities, (c) realigning fiscal investments, and (d) leveraging community partnerships. Establishing and sustaining health equity initiatives through HEM ensures that both economic and social criteria are systematically considered, and financial investments are prioritized for sustained impact. Without addressing all four, the efforts of healthcare organizations will fall short of what it will take to effect lasting change. Redefining health equity requires incorporating upstream and downstream inequities to offer a lens to align mission, assess capacity, and leverage profitable partnerships. The systematic approach to HEM goals and principles can be integrated at various organizational levels as a tool to successfully address health inequalities and social determinants of health.

Article

Religion, Aging, and Public Health  

Jeff Levin and Ellen Idler

Religion, in both its personal and institutional forms, is a significant force influencing the health of populations across the life course. Decades of research have documented that expressions of faith and the practice of spiritual pursuits exhibit significantly protective effects for physical and mental health, psychological well-being, and population rates of morbidity, mortality, and disability. This finding has been observed across sociodemographic categories, across nations and cultures, across specific disease outcomes, and regardless of one’s religious affiliation. A salutary religious effect on health and well-being is especially apparent among older adults, but is also observed across generations and age cohorts. Moreover, this association has been persistently found for various religious indicators, including attendance at worship services, prayer and other private practices, subjective feelings of religiosity, and numerous measures of religious behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. Finally, a protective or primary preventive effect of religion has been observed in clinical, epidemiologic, social, and behavioral studies, regardless of research design or methodology. Faith-based organizations also have contributed to the health of populations, in partnerships or alliances with medical institutions and public health agencies, many of these dating back many decades. Examples include congregational health promotion and disease prevention programs and community-wide interventions, especially targeting the health and well-being of older congregants and those in less well-resourced communities, as well as faith–health partnerships in healthcare delivery, public health policymaking, and legislative advocacy for healthcare reform. Religious denominations and institutions also play a substantial role in global health development throughout the world, individually and in partnership with national health ministries, transnational medical mission organizations, and established nongovernmental agencies. These efforts focus on a wide range of goals and objectives, including building public health infrastructure, addressing ongoing environmental health needs, and responding to acute public health challenges and crises, such as infectious disease outbreaks. Constituencies include at-risk populations and cohorts throughout the life course, and programming ranges from perinatal care to maternal and child healthcare to geriatric medicine.