December 2016 marks the close of an enormously successful chapter for the fields of health services and policy research. After nearly three decades, the final grants funded under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization (HCFO) initiative will conclude.

As the initiative’s longtime National Program Office, AcademyHealth has been proud to collaborate with some of the best and the brightest investigators to help provide usable and timely information on health care policy, financing, and market developments to the decision makers who need it most. Our grantees’ research has made a lasting impact on the health policy evidence base, most notably through work on risk adjustment, managed care, prescription drug coverage, and Medicare payment, among many other topics.

The Power of Relationships

As we reflect on the contributions of the program, we are struck by the power of relationships in strengthening the relevance and use of evidence in health policymaking. The relationships we’ve built with researchers, policymakers, and our partners at RWJF have played a pivotal role in getting actionable evidence that can improve health and health care into the hands of decision makers when they need it and in a format they can use.

The value and effectiveness of these relationships can be seen throughout our activities, and notably in HCFO’s in-person meetings over the years. From a 1993 expert workshop on managed care that informed the Clinton Administration’s health care reform efforts, to a meeting of researchers and policymakers on Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program nearly 20 years later, the HCFO program served as an important bridge between researchers and policymakers.  

None of this would have been possible without our partners at RWJF. RWJF Senior Advisor and HCFO Program Officer Nancy Barrand was instrumental in crafting a vision for HCFO. She also pioneered a hallmark of the program—our small, invitational meetings—and understood the value of bringing diverse experts together to discuss the evidence and policy questions around a particular topic. Getting the right people together at the right time to address pressing research needs proved an effective recipe for breaking intellectual ground and continues to be a mainstay of our activities today. RWJF Assistant Vice President Brian Quinn and others at the Foundation were also strong champions of the HCFO program and investigator-initiated research.

Building on a Lasting Legacy

We’re tremendously proud of our HCFO investigators’ contributions, and we’re excited to continue working to move evidence into action. While the HCFO program may sunset at the end of this year, our staff at AcademyHealth continue to apply the lessons we learned through HCFO and engage in a number of activities to help researchers produce rigorous and relevant evidence and more effectively translate and disseminate that work.

We are continuing to work closely with RWJF to generate evidence to improve health and health care and to build a culture of health. For example, we’ve adapted the rigorous, transparent HCFO grantmaking process for special topic solicitations, and we are currently managing a number of these special topic research programs for RWJF today. AcademyHealth is also proud to serve as a partner on a number of the RWJF Change Leadership Programs.

The HCFO program was part of AcademyHealth’s broader efforts to make individuals and communities healthier by the use of evidence in decision-making. With nearly 4,000 members, comprised of health services researchers, policymakers, and health care practitioners and stakeholders, AcademyHealth bridges the research and policy communities through a range of high quality programs and services to address the needs of our members and an evolving health system.

As one example of this work, AcademyHealth’s Translation and Dissemination Institute (TDI) undertakes activities to seek, test, and promote new and innovative approaches to moving knowledge into action. One of the institute’s current projects is to conduct a series of rapid evidence reviews to pilot innovative approaches to quickly, but rigorously identify and communicate evidence to inform public and private decision-making. Funded by RWJF, the series examines questions relevant to building a Culture of Health with the most recent review examining the current evidence on opportunities for improving health by modifying the physical structure of a home.

While the HCFO program will formally conclude at the end of this year, its contributions to advancing health care policy and the research evidence base will certainly endure. It’s been a privilege to be the National Program Office for the HCFO initiative for nearly 30 years, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Foundation, our members, and the field to improve health and health care and to help build a culture of health in America—where everyone can achieve the best health possible.

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