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About Stanford Health Policy

Stanford Health Policy addresses important healthcare issues:

• How can the United States expand healthcare access for the uninsured in ways that are politically and economically feasible?

• How can hospitals and clinics promote attitudes and practices among healthcare workers that make patient care safer?

• What policies in the United States and abroad can improve health outcomes among ethnic minorities, the poor and other vulnerable populations?

• What incentives will encourage physicians to provide the most appropriate and effective medical care?

• How can the United States and other nations best prepare for and respond to a bioterrorist attack?

• What approaches will work best in developing countries to prevent or limit the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS?

Stanford Health Policy is the joint working name of the Center for Health Policy (CHP) and the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research (PCOR). We conduct rigorous research that lays the foundation for better domestic and international health policy and health care. Drawing upon our multidisciplinary research, Stanford Health Policy offers innovative educational programs from the undergraduate to the graduate level.

Located in the heart of Stanford’s campus, Stanford Health Policy is run under the auspices of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (CHP) and the Stanford University School of Medicine (PCOR). The jointly operated centers were founded in 1998 to engage faculty, staff and students from across Stanford—including medicine, economics, statistics, business, law, engineering and psychology—in research on health policy and clinical practice. In 2009, the two centers adopted the working name Stanford Health Policy.

Training Tomorrow's Leaders

In addition to courses and seminars, Stanford Health Policy offers a Scholarly Concentration in Health Services and Policy Research for medical students, and post-doctoral fellowship programs focused on healthcare research and policy, medical informatics, geriatrics, children’s health policy, and health and aging research in China. These programs prepare students for national and international leadership roles in health policy, outcomes research, health economics and health services research.

Promoting Discourse

Stanford Health Policy promotes interaction among leading researchers, clinicians, healthcare executives, policymakers and members of the public by hosting seminars, lectures and roundtables. These forums provide vital opportunities for the health policy community at Stanford and in the San Francisco Bay Area to share ideas and expertise.

Confronting Global Health Problems

As part of Stanford University’s International Initiative, Stanford Health Policy studies critical global health problems including defending against bioterrorism; preventing and treating infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and emerging infections; evaluating systems of healthcare financing and delivery in a range of countries; and making medical advances available to the world’s poorest communities. In addition to answering important research questions, these efforts are aimed at identifying practical strategies to improve health and health care around the world.

Cultivating a Network of Expertise

Affiliated university researchers and outside experts from the United States and abroad collaborate with Stanford Health Policy investigators on center research projects, providing valuable perspective on current healthcare issues. Complementing the centers’ academic expertise is the in-depth knowledge of affiliates from healthcare systems and other organizations, including Kaiser Permanente, the Pacific Business Group on Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Stanford Health Policy's Foundations

There is no shortage of voices advocating fixes for every problem facing the healthcare system. Policymakers and the public have a great need for better information, especially the kind that results from the rigorous, creative, interdisciplinary research that Stanford does so well.
- Alan M. Garber

Stanford Health Policy builds on a legacy of achievement in health services research, health policy and health economics at Stanford University. The centers were created in 1998 under the leadership of Alan M. Garber, MD, PhD, a general internist and economist educated at Stanford and Harvard. Garber and other founding members saw the need for an intellectually rigorous, multidisciplinary research center whose work would guide health policy and clinical practice in the United States and abroad.

From the beginning, the research at Stanford Health Policy has sought to overcome some of the central barriers to improvement in the U.S. healthcare system:

  • Policymakers often lack adequate information to formulate effective laws and regulations governing health care.
  • There is a need for better information about the tradeoffs between the costs and benefits of alternative treatment options, particularly for expensive high-tech treatments that may bring only modest benefit or may benefit a small number of people.
  • Research has shown that there are large, unexplained variations in how doctors treat a particular condition, how patients respond to treatment and how doctors and their patients perceive the outcome of their care.
  • Despite the increasing sophistication and availability of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, many physicians fail to follow such guidelines. As a result, patients often fail to receive recommended treatments, or they receive treatments that are unnecessary or harmful.
  • Tens of thousands of patients in the United States die each year as a result of medical errors. Despite many efforts to improve patient safety, errors persist, in part because the healthcare system is not designed with adequate checks and balances to prevent errors, or even to measure rates of problems.

Founding Faculty

Joining Garber in this effort was a core group of faculty known for their visionary ideas and leadership in fields including health policy, health economics, statistics and law. These individuals, who continue to contribute to Stanford Health Policy's mission, include Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel laureate who produced seminal work on health economics in the 1960s; Victor Fuchs, one of the nation's foremost health economists, who was one of the first to show that lifestyle played a greater role in health outcomes than medical treatment; and Alain Enthoven, a professor of business and management whom many credit with laying the intellectual framework for the managed care revolution.

Other early and ongoing contributors to Stanford Health Policy include Mary K. Goldstein, Mark A. Hlatky, Daniel P. Kessler, Mark B. McClellan, Kathryn M. McDonald, Douglas K. Owens and Sara J. Singer.

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