Blog Helps Clarify Health Care Policy Research

By Brad Wright

Published on July 9, 2014

A portrait of Brad Wright of the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Brad Wright

The U.S. health care system is large and complicated. In fact, it makes up nearly one-fifth of the entire U.S. economy, and all of us—at one time or another—utilize health care. Yet, few Americans truly understand how the system works or what is being done to try and make it work better. Most people don’t think much about health policy or health services research, even though it can determine whether or not they have access to affordable, high-quality health care.

In an attempt to change that, I started a blog, Wright on Health, that aims to translate complex health policy and health services research issues so that they can be more effectively communicated to an educated lay audience.

In my experience, most people aren’t going to pick up and read a copy of Health Affairs or Health Services Research, but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be interested in the information contained in those publications if the relevant implications were explained to them. Helping the public make that connection is a responsibility that researchers should embrace far more often than they do. Consequently, my goal is always to focus on answering the “big picture” or “so what?” questions. For example: “What will this policy do?” “What did this study find?” “Why is that interesting?” “Why does it matter to me?”

In 2009, amidst a mountain of misinformation, I created Wright on Health to objectively explain “ObamaCare” and the need for health reform. Today, our broader goal is to educate the public about their health care system.

Some of the topics we’ve written about include the “doc fix” bill, the cost of health care, quality initiatives, and enrollment in health insurance exchanges. We want to be a place where researchers and policy analysts learn about each other’s work, where Congressional staffers and state legislators turn for innovative ideas that are easy to digest quickly, and where everyone can engage in a constructive dialogue about what works and what doesn’t in American health care.

After nearly five years and more than 750 posts, our work has appeared on NPR, Kaiser Health News, The New Republic, Real Clear Politics, The Health Care Blog, The Huffington Post, Health Works Collective, and KevinMD. Blogging alongside me are: Nicole Fisher, founder and principal at Chicago-based HHR Strategies (a health care and human rights advising firm); Dr. Shirie Gale, a Boston-based anesthesiologist; Dr. Robert Hackey, director of the health policy and management program at Providence College; and Maggie Mahar, former contributor to Barron’s, Time, and The New York Times, creator of the HealthBeat blog, and the author of Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much.

As we continue growing, we’re exploring ways to partner with the UI College of Public Health. We’re also looking for additional contributors to help us achieve our vision of expanding our network of bloggers, enhancing our content, and reaching more people. If you’re interested in writing for us, or would like to learn more about the mission of the blog, please contact me at brad-wright@uiowa.edu.