Emory Report
January 29, 2007
Volume 59, Number 17

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January 29 , 2007
Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions

by Kenneth Thorpe

Rising health care costs represent one of the most important domestic policy issues facing employers, families and government. Since 2000, the cost of health insurance has increased by nearly 60 percent — about three times the rate of growth in wages.

To date, solutions proposed for addressing the issue seem ill equipped to drive major changes in the health care industry. Factors generating the rise in health care are complex and proposed solutions have been largely ineffective. The United States spends nearly 50 percent more on health care than other countries, yet our health care outcomes (infant mortality, life expectancy) are about average when compared to other countries.

The new Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions is designed to forge new, innovative solutions to key policy issues, such as health care, that are facing the United States.

Researchers from across Emory, as well as visiting scholars from other universities, think tanks and the private sector, will be housed in the new institute, working in close collaboration. The teams will be organized around several key policy issues that will rotate every two to five years.

The institute teams will operate as “skunk works,” a term that has evolved to mean a small, loosely structured team that works outside of administrative structures to develop extraordinary projects. Many of Lockheed’s aircraft and the Macintosh computer are products of skunk works.

An initial focus of the institute will be to establish a broad, interdisciplinary, cross-school and cross-institutional research group to tackle the high and rising costs of health care and to create ways to improve the value of health care spending.

The team’s activities will include developing a university-wide seminar series on health and health care, a series of reports, meetings with key industry and government leaders and a blueprint for reform that would be released at a major conference at Emory.

Health care is a logical first issue for the institute. In addition to its critical importance in the U.S., Emory already has a strong interdisciplinary team ready to address the issue, needing only modest seed funding. The institute director, working with Emory leadership, also could raise external funding easily to finance the ongoing work of institute faculty.

The skunk works team can be built through the Emory Center for Health Outcomes and Quality, which is a multidisciplinary research center designed to address the nation’s most compelling health policy issues. The Center is focused on improving the value and quality of health care and is organized around three key areas — mental health, cancer and chronic disease. The Center serves as the engine for embedding cutting edge policy and health services research into delivery systems, workplaces and cultures.

Emory’s investment in the institute will have far-reaching effects in critical areas, and developing a collaboration to address such important policy questions is an ongoing contribution to the well-being of society.