Please note: the start time for this event has been moved from 3:00 to 3:15pm.
Join FSI Director Michael McFaul in conversation with Richard Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. They will address the role of entrepreneurship in creating stable, prosperous societies around the world.
Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
United States Department of State
In addition to her role as Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Human Trafficking Data Lab, Jessie Brunner serves as Deputy Director of Strategy and Program Development at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University. In this capacity she manages the Center's main interdisciplinary collaborations and research activities, in addition to advising on overall Center strategy. Jessie currently researches issues relevant to data collection and ethical data use in the human trafficking field, with a focus on Brazil and Southeast Asia. Furthermore, in her role as co-Principal Investigator of the Re:Structure Lab, Jessie is investigating how supply chains and business models can be re-imagined to promote equitable labor standards, worker rights, and abolish forced labor. Brunner earned a MA in International Policy from Stanford University and a BA in Mass Communications and a Spanish minor from the University of California, Berkeley.
Director of Strategic Partnerships, Human Trafficking Data Lab
Deputy Director of Strategy and Program Development, Center for Human Rights and International Justice
A new study by Stanford economists shows that giving fathers flexibility to take time off work in the months after their children are born improves the postpartum health and mental well-being of mothers.
In the study, slated for release by the National Bureau of Economic Research on June 3, Petra Persson and Maya Rossin-Slater examined the effects of a reform in Sweden that introduced more flexibility into the parental leave system. The 2012 law removed a prior restriction preventing a child’s mother and father from taking paid leave at the same time. And it allowed fathers to use up to 30 days of paid leave on an intermittent basis within a year of their child’s birth while the mothers were still on leave.
The policy change resulted in some clear benefits toward the mother’s health, including reductions in childbirth-related complications and postpartum anxiety, according to their empirical analysis.
“A lot of the discussion around how to support mothers is about mothers being able to take leave, but we often don’t think about the other part of the equation — fathers,” says Rossin-Slater, an assistant professor of health research and policy.
“Our study underscores that the father’s presence in the household shortly after childbirth can have important consequences for the new mother's physical and mental health,” says Persson, an assistant professor of economics.
Rossin-Slater and Persson are both faculty fellows at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
Among their main findings of effects following the reform: Mothers are 14 percent less likely to need a specialist or be admitted to a hospital for childbirth-related complications — such as mastitis or other infections — within the first six months of childbirth. And they are 11 percent less likely to get an antibiotic prescription within that first half-year of their baby’s life.
There is also an overall 26 percent drop in the likelihood of any anti-anxiety prescriptions during that six-month postpartum period — with reductions in prescriptions being most pronounced during the first three months after childbirth.
What’s more, the study found that the average new father used paid leave for only a few days following the reform — far less than the maximum 30 days allowed — indicating how strong of a difference a couple of days of extra support for the mother could make.
“The key here is that families are granted the flexibility to decide, on a day-to-day basis, exactly when to have the dad stay home,” said Persson. “If, for example, the mom gets early symptoms of mastitis while breastfeeding, the dad can take one or two days off from work so that the mom can rest, which may avoid complications from the infection or the need for antibiotics.”
These indirect benefits from giving fathers workplace flexibility are not trivial matters when you consider the health issues mothers often face after childbirth and after they get home from the hospital, says Rossin-Slater, who is also a faculty member of Stanford Health Policy.
Infections and childbirth complications lead to one out of 100 women getting readmitted to the hospital within 30 days in the United States, according to the study.
Meanwhile, postpartum depression occurs for about one out of nine women, and maternal mortality has also been a rising trend over the past 25 years in the U.S.
The study comes as a growing number of lawmakers in the United States vocalize support for paid family leave but have failed to pass federal legislation.
Washington, D.C., and six states have adopted various paid family leave laws, but the U.S. remains the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have a national mandate guaranteeing a certain amount of paid parental leave.
Some federal lawmakers are working on family leave measures and have proposed such legislation over the past few years — including The Family Act, The New Parents Act — but none of them have ever gained enough traction to proceed in Congress.
This new study can help broaden the policy discussions, the researchers say.
The larger context around paid family leave policies is often framed today as a way to help narrow the gender wage gap by giving women more workplace flexibility and fewer career setbacks.
This study, however, shines a light on maternal health costs and how a policy on paid family leave — that includes workplace flexibility for the father — offers more benefits than previously thought, Rossin-Slater says.
“It's important to think not only about giving families access to some leave, but also about letting them have agency over how they use it,” she says.
And when it comes to concerns that fathers might use paid parental leave to goof off instead of spending the time as intended, the researchers say their study should assuage those worries.
“It's not like fathers are going to end up using a whole month to just stay home and watch TV. We don't find any evidence of that,” Rossin-Slater says. “Instead they only use a limited number of days precisely when the timing for that seems most beneficial for the family.”
“For all these reasons,” Persson says, “giving households flexibility in how to use paternity leave makes a lot of sense.”
The number of deaths due to poor-quality health care is estimated to be five times higher than the annual global deaths from HIV/AIDS — and three times more than deaths from diabetes.
That amounts to 5 million deaths per year in 137 low- and middle-income countries as a result of poor-quality care, with a further 3.6 million lives lost due to insufficient access to care, according to the first study to quantify the burden of poor-quality health systems worldwide.
“As efforts to expand universal health coverage continue to drive the global health agenda, these numbers remind us that addressing the quality of health systems must be a top priority,” said Stanford Health Policy’s Joshua Salomon, a professor of medicine, member of the commission, and senior author on The Lancet study.
“Increasing access to health care continues to be critically important, but we find that there is also a tremendous opportunity to do a better job at caring for those who are already accessing the health system.”
To quantify the burden of poor-quality health care, the authors analysed data for 61 different health conditions and computed the "excess mortality" found among patients in low- and middle-income countries – that is, the additional risk of death in those countries compared to corresponding risks in high-income countries with strong health systems. Among the 5 million deaths attributed to receipt of poor-quality care, 1.9 million, or nearly 40 percent, occurred in the South Asia region, which includes India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The commission, in an extensive report on its overall findings and recommendations, found systematic deficits in quality of care in multiple countries, across a range of health conditions and in both primary and hospital care. These include:
The over 8 million excess deaths due to poor-quality health systems lead to economic welfare losses of $6 trillion in 2015 alone.
Poor-quality is a major driver of deaths amenable to health care across all conditions in low- and middle-income countries, including 84 percent of cardiovascular deaths, 81 percent of vaccine preventable diseases, 61 percent of neonatal conditions — and half of maternal, road injury, tuberculosis, HIV and other infectious disease deaths.
Approximately 1 million deaths from neonatal conditions and tuberculosis occurred in people who used the health system, but received poor care.
“Quality care should not be the purview of the elite, or an aspiration for some distant future; it should be the DNA of all health systems,” said Commission Chair Margaret E. Kruk of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“The human right to health is meaningless without good quality care. High quality health systems put people first. They generate health, earn the public’s trust, and can adapt when health needs change,” Kruk said. “Countries will know they are on the way towards high-quality, accountable health systems when health workers and policymakers choose to receive health care in their own public institutions.”
The commissioners used data from more than 81,000 consultations in 18 countries and found that, on average, mothers and children receive less than half of the recommended clinical actions in a typical visit, including failures to do postpartum check-ups, incorrect management of diarrhoea or tuberculosis, and failures to monitor blood pressure during labor.
And perhaps not surprising, poor-quality care is more common among the most vulnerable.
The wealthiest women attending antenatal care are four times more likely to report blood pressure measurements, and urine and blood tests compared to the poorest women; adolescent mothers are less likely to receive evidence-based care; and children from wealthier families are more likely to receive antibiotics. People with stigmatized health conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, mental health and substance abuse disorders, as well as other vulnerable groups such as refugees, prisoners and migrants are less likely to receive high quality care.
“Given our findings, it is not surprising that only one quarter of people in low- and middle-income countries believe that their health systems work well,” Kruk said.
The right to high quality care
In an accompanying editorial by The Lancet, the editors acknowledge that expansion of universal health coverage remains essential, but that without high quality health-care systems, universal care “will be an abstract and meaningless myth.”
The commission proposes several ways to address health system quality, starting with public accountability for and transparency on health system performance.
It found many current improvement approaches have had limited effects. Additionally, commonly used health system metrics, such as availability of medicines, equipment or the proportion of births with skilled attendants, do not reflect quality of care and might lead to false complacency about progress.
The commission calls for fewer, but better measurements of health systems quality, and proposes a dashboard of metrics that should be implemented in counties by 2021 to enable transparent measurement and reporting of quality care.
“The vast epidemic of low-quality care suggests there is no quick fix, and policymakers must commit to reforming the foundations of health care systems,” said Muhammad Pate, co-chair of the commission and former minister of state for health in Nigeria.
“This includes adopting a clear quality strategy, organizing services to maximize outcomes, not access alone, modernizing health-worker education, and enlisting the public in demanding better quality care,” Pate said.
“For too long, the global health discourse has been focused on improving access to care, without sufficient emphasis on high quality care,” he said. “Providing health services without guaranteeing a minimum level of quality is ineffective, wasteful and unethical.”
Most civilian casualties in war are not the result of direct exposure to bombs and bullets; they are due to the destruction of the essentials of daily living, including food, water, shelter, and health care. These “indirect” effects are too often invisible and not adequately assessed nor addressed by just war principles or global humanitarian response. This essay suggests that while the neglect of indirect effects has been longstanding, recent technical advances make such neglect increasingly unacceptable: 1) our ability to measure indirect effects has improved dramatically and 2) our ability to prevent or mitigate the indirect human toll of war has made unprecedented progress. Together, these advances underscore the importance of addressing more fully the challenge of indirect effects both in the application of just war principles as well as their tragic human cost in areas of conflict around the world.
When one thinks of the casualties of war, it is easy to imagine severed limbs, bullet holes, shrapnel, perhaps even sarin gas or Agent Orange. But in a recent Daedalus essay, Paul Wise argues that the most damaging health impacts of war are often indirect. Losing access to food supplies, medication and electricity can kill more people than battle itself. In this video by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Wise, a professor of pediatrics and Stanford Health Policy core faculty member, explains how fatal the indirect costs of war can be.
Pandemics are a growing health concern in the United States and abroad. But as global health specialists are ramping up efforts to prevent them, funding may be slipping away.
President Trump's proposed budget would eliminate the National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Center, a key player in the fight against diseases worldwide.
According to a USA Today column by Michele Barry, Director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health and a Stanford Health Policy affiliate, and David Yach, a former cabinet director at the World Health Organization, Fogarty's global health research benefits the United States along with other countries. The center has produced insights into Alzheimer's research, is looking into the genetics of obesity and diabetes, and has started developing early warning systems for pandemics.
But its most important accomplishment, according to Barry and Yach, is training scientists in more than 100 low- and middle-income countries. These experts have emerged as leaders in their own countries and around the world.
Their contributions have not only improved health but have influenced the World Health Organization and leading global health donors.
Said Barry and Yach, "To eliminate the Fogarty Center now would undermine progress, erode trust in America’s leadership in global health, and increase the risk of a devastating and preventable epidemic in the U.S. Keeping Fogarty would preserve health, both of Americans and populations all over the world."
Non-communicable diseases such as heart and respiratory disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes are now responsible for some two-thirds of premature deaths around the world. And most of those are in low- and middle-income countries.
The United Nations has estimated that on top of the social and psychological burdens of chronic disease, the cumulative loss to the global economy could reach $47 trillion by 2030 if things remain status quo.
“That was a big whopper of a number and got a lot of attention, and that was good because it raised awareness,” said Rachel Nugent, vice president for global non-communicable diseases (NDCs) at the research institute RTI International.
“It’s an issue that is driven by a lot of different factors, “ she said. “And understanding how the larger social and economic factors affect NDCs, at a policy level, very little progress has been made — there’s been very little collaboration.”
Nugent was addressing the fourth annual Global Health Economics Colloquium at University of California San Francisco, with health experts, policymakers, students and researchers from Stanford, Berkeley and UCSF who gather every year to take a deep dive into the economics of a global health issue. More than 200 experts from 10 universities and public health departments attended the conference.
The daylong gathering focused on recent developments in the economics of NDCs, looking at case studies from around the world, and new guidelines for cost-effectiveness analysis and the role of economics in reducing health inequality.
“The donors are not convinced that there are cost-effective things that we can do in these countries; a lot of them are very skeptical that this is affecting the poor,” said Nugent, a member of the World Health Organization’s expert advisory panel on the management of NCDs.
In India, for example, much of the population still defecates outdoors, contaminating water sources and agricultural products, which can lead to malnutrition and physical and cognitive disorders. Many donors would rather see funds go to building latrines as they can see tangible results; NDC prevention is a long-term slog.
“But I don’t think we should necessarily think of NDCs as either-or,” said Nugent. “I think that integration of services and programming is very much at the forefront of what is the right way to go.”
Nugent’s research has shown five cost-effective interventions would avert more than 5 million premature deaths from NCDs by 2030, or a reduction of 28.5 percent in projected mortality from chronic disease around the world. And the average benefit-cost ratio is 9:1, at a global cost of $8.5 billion a year.
The interventions are raising the price of tobacco products by 125 percent through taxation; providing aspirin to 75 percent of those suffering from acute myocardial infarction; reducing salt intake by 30 percent; reducing the prevalence of high blood pressure with low-cost hypertension medication; and providing preventive drug therapy to 70 percent of those at high risk of heart disease.
“There is a continued emphasis on transparency and comparability across analyses,” said Sanders-Schmidler. “And of course the big changes are that we’re now asking for a second reference case and using an ‘impact inventory’ table to clarify the scope of the findings.”
The independent panel of non-government scientists and scholars, which also included Stanford Health Policy’s Douglas K. Owens, focused on new ways to deliver health care effectively, yet with a focus on efficiency, as health care spending in the United States has reached 18 percent of GDP, much greater than the global average of 10 percent.
The first panel that convened in 1996 recommended that all cost-effectiveness analyses of health interventions include a reference case that uses standard methodological practices to improve comparability and quality. The second panel, which published its findings in September, now recommends that in addition to the societal perspective recommended by the original panel, that CEAs include a second reference case that looks at the health-care sector impact of an intervention. Additional guidance was given on what to include in the societal perspective reference case.
The panel wrote in its JAMA “special communication” that these societal reference cases should include medical costs “borne by third-party payers and paid out-of-pocket by patients, time costs of patients in seeking and receiving care, time costs of informal (unpaid) caregivers, transportation costs, effects on future productivity and consumption, and other costs and effects outside the health-care sector.”
They found most countries, including the United States, give greater weight to clinical evidence in their cost-effectiveness analyses. The panel now recommends an “impact inventory” that helps analysts and end-users of cost effectiveness analyses look at the impact of interventions beyond the formal health-care sector.
“We’re trying to ask people to be explicit,” said Owens, director of the Center of Primary Care and Outcomes Research and Center for Health Policy at Stanford.
“We want them to look at how to value outcomes in a societal perspective, not just the health-care sector, to look at all these other sectors such as productivity consumption, criminal justice, education, housing and the environment,” he said.
Several case studies presented at the colloquium indicated that policy changes, government intervention and social factors are key to preventing obesity and diabetes and other NCDs.
Kristine Madsen, an associate professor of public health at UC Berkeley who focuses on childhood obesity, spoke about the nation’s first “soda tax” on sugar-sweetened beverages, which was implemented in Berkeley in March 2015.
The city has seen a 21 percent decline in the drinking of soda and other sugary drinks in low-income neighborhoods after the city levied a penny-per-ounce tax on sodas and sugary drinks. At the same time, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, neighboring San Francisco — where a similar soda-tax measure was defeated — and Oakland saw a 4 percent increase in the purchase of sweetened beverages.
“This decline of 21 percent in Berkeley represents the largest public health impact in an intervention that I have ever seen,” said Madsen.
Sergio Bautista of the Mexico National Institute of Public Health and UC Berkeley, said that Mexico’s sugary drinks tax implemented in January 2014 is expected to lead to a 10 percent reduction in sugary drinks consumption and prevent an estimated 189,300 cases of diabetes in a country famed for its sugary bottled cola.
William Dow, a professor of health policy management at UC Berkeley, shared his research on Costa Rica, where on average people live longer than Americans, despite the several times higher income and 10 times higher health expenditures in the United States.
Costa Rican men have a life expectancy of 77 and the women typically live until age 82; in Americans the numbers are 76 and 81, respectively. Obesity is low among Costa Rican men and few of their women smoke. Lung cancer mortality in the United States is four times higher among men and six times higher among women.
“It’s remarkable in so many ways,” Dow said, noting that deaths in the Central American country are due predominantly to infectious disease. “Does Costa Rica have any unique effective programs to emulate, or is there something going on upstream driving those health outcomes?”
He believes Costa Rica’s national health insurance and excellent access to primary care for nearly all its people are key. Having this guaranteed lifetime access to health care also reduces the stress and depression that can so badly harm physical health.
“And I would argue that probably diet is one of the most important things going on here,” said Dow, noting their diets are healthy.
Costa Ricans eat mostly unprocessed foods such as rice and black beans, corn tortilla, yam and squash, with little meat and plenty of fresh fruit.
“They also have the highest remaining life expectancy at age 80 of any country in the world, he said. “What we have learned in Costa Rica would be helpful in many other countries.”
In a shack that now sits below sea level, a mother in Bangladesh struggles to grow vegetables in soil inundated by salt water. In Malawi, a toddler joins thousands of other children perishing from drought-induced malnutrition. And in China, more than one million people died from air pollution in 2012 alone.
Around the world, climate change is already having an effect on human health.
In a recent paper, Katherine Burke and Michele Barry from the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health, along with former Wellesley College President Diana Walsh, described climate change as “the ultimate global health crisis.” They offered recommendations to the new United States president to address the urgently arising health risks associated with climate change.
The authors, along with Stanford researchers Marshall Burke, Eran Bendavid and Amy Pickering who also study climate change, are concerned by how little has been done to mitigate its effects on health.
There is still time to ease — though not eliminate — the worst effects on health, but as the average global temperature continues to creep upward, time appears to be running short.
“I think we are at a critical point right now in terms of mitigating the effects of climate change on health,” said Amy Pickering, a research engineer at the Woods Institute for the Environment. “And I don’t think that’s a priority of the new administration at all.”
Health effects of climate change
Even in countries like the United States that are well-equipped to adapt to climate change, health impacts will be significant.
“We see mortality rates increase when temperatures are very low, and especially when they are very high.”
Bendavid also has seen air pollutants cause respiratory problems in people from Beijing to Los Angeles to villages in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Hotter temperatures make it such that particulate matter and dust and pollutants stick around longer,” he said.
In addition to respiratory issues, air pollution can have long-term cognitive effects. A study in Chile found that children who are exposed to high amounts of air pollution in utero score lower on math tests by the fourth grade.
“I think we’re only starting to understand the true costs of dirty air,” said Marshall Burke. “Even short-term exposure to low levels can have life-long effects.”
Low-income countries like Bangladesh already suffer widespread, direct health effects from rising sea levels. Salt water flooding has crept through homes and crops, threatening food sources and drinking water for millions of people.
“I think that flooding is one of the most pressing issues in low-income and densely populated countries,” said Pickering. “There’s no infrastructure there to handle it.”
Standing water left over from flooding is also a breeding ground for diseases like cholera, diarrhea and mosquito-borne illnesses, all of which are likely to become more prevalent as the planet warms.
On the flip side, many regions of Sub-Saharan Africa — where clean water is already hard to access — are likely to experience severe droughts. The United Nations warned last year that more than 36 million people across southern and eastern Africa face hunger due to drought and record-high temperatures.
Residents may have to walk farther to find water, and local sources could become contaminated more easily. Pickering fears that losing access to nearby, clean water will make maintaining proper hygiene and growing nutritious foods a challenge.
All of these effects and more can also damage mental health, said Katherine Burke and her colleagues in their paper. The aftermath of extreme weather events and the hardships of living in long-term drought or flood can cause anxiety, depression, grief and trauma.
Climate change will affect health in every sector of society, but as Katherine Burke and her colleagues said, “….climate disruption is inflicting the greatest suffering on those least responsible for causing it, least equipped to adapt, least able to resist the powerful forces of the status quo.
“If we fail to act now,” they said, “the survival of our species may hang in the balance.”
What can the new administration do to ease health effects?
If the Paris Agreement’s emissions standards are met, scientists predict that the world’s temperature will increase about 2.7 degrees Celsius – still significant but less hazardous than the 4-degree increase projected from current emissions.
The United States plays a critical role in the Paris Agreement. Apart from the significance of cutting its own emissions, failing to live up to its end of the bargain — as the Trump administration has suggested — could have a significant impact on the morale of the other countries involved.
“The reason that Paris is going to work is because we’re in this together,” said Marshall Burke. “If you don’t meet your target, you’re going to be publicly shamed.”
The Trump administration has also discussed repealing the Clean Power Plan, Obama-era legislation to decrease the use of coal, which has been shown to contribute to respiratory disease.
“Withdrawing from either of those will likely have negative short- and long-run health impacts, both in the U.S. and abroad,” said Marshall Burke.
Scott Pruitt, who was confirmed today as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is expected to carry out Trump’s promise to dismantle environment regulations.
Despite the Trump administration’s apparent doubts about climate change, a few prominent Republicans do support addressing its effects.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobile, supports a carbon tax, which would create a financial incentive to turn to renewable energy sources. He also has expressed support for the Paris Agreement. It is possible that as secretary of state, Tillerson could help maintain U.S. obligations from the Paris Agreement, though it is far from certain whether he would choose to do so or how Trump would react.
More promising is a recent proposal from the Climate Leadership Council. Authored by eight leading Republicans — including two former secretaries of state, two former secretaries of the treasury and Rob Walton, Walmart’s former chairman of the board — the plan seeks to reduce emissions considerably through a carbon dividends plan.
Their proposal would gradually increase taxes on carbon emissions but would return the proceeds directly to the American people. Americans would receive a regular check with their portion of the proceeds, similar to receiving a social security check. According to the authors, 70 percent of Americans would come out ahead financially, keeping the tax from being a burden on low- and middle-income Americans while still incentivizing lower emissions.
“A tax on carbon is exactly what we need to provide the right incentives and induce the sort of technological and infrastructure change needed to reduce long-term emissions,” said Marshall Burke.
Pickering added, “This policy is a ray of hope for meaningful action on climate.”
It remains to be seen whether the new administration and congress would consider such a program.
What can academics do to help?
Meanwhile, academics can promote health by researching the effects of climate change and finding ways to adapt to them.
“I think it’s fascinating that there’s just so little data right now on how climate change is going to impact health,” said Pickering.
Studying the effects of warming on the world challenges traditional methods of research.
“You can’t create any sort of experiment,” said Bendavid. “There’s only one climate and one planet.”
The scholars agree that interdisciplinary study is a critical part of adapting to climate change and that more research is needed.
“If ever there was an issue worthy of a leader’s best effort, this is the moment, this is the issue,” said Katherine Burke and her colleagues. “Time is short, but it may not be too late to make all the difference.”
The health gap between rich and poor children in developing countires is staggeringly high, but Assistant Professor of Medicine Eran Bendavid found that it is shrinking. In his pilot project, "Empirical Evidence on Wealth Inequality and Health in Developing Countries," Bendavid discovered that since the mid-2000s, life expectancies for children under five are starting to converge. How can we continue to close the gap? Watch to find out.