Polsky to push Penn health research into Washington policy circles

Daniel Polsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School (medicine) and its Wharton School (business), has been named the new executive director of Penn's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, university provost Vincent Price told Penn staff in an email last week.

Polsky "has taught at Penn since 1996, when he earned his PhD here in Econmics," and has headed research for the Leonard Davis Institute (LDI) for the past four years, while also serving on President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers (2007-08) and advising the Congressional Budget Office on health issues. (Corrected, thanks Tom G)

Polsky replaces Prof. David Asch, who Polsky cited as his mentor in this brief statement to a Penn online newsletter. 

UPDATE: Asch grew the Institute "to be a research organization that connects an impressive and expansive group of researchers on campus dedicated to improving health through a better functioning healthcare system," Polsky told me in an email.

"The funded research among the 200 LDI senior fellows exceeds $100 million annually.

"While academics certainly recognize the strength of this research activity, my desire is for this scholarship to better inform policy at the national, state, and local levels. My vision is to extend the reach of [the Institute] by expanding, not only internal collaborations and research towards these aims, but [also] the impact and reach...

"I would like LDI to be broadly known as institute that makes an impact with new knowledge on how to improve health through a better functioning healthcare system.:

UPDATE: Prof. Polsky provides more details in an interview this afternoon: "We're definitely not an advocacy organization. We wouldn't be good at it. 

"As academics we do our research, publish in journals, move on to the next article. But who reads journals? Mostly other academics, who can read language appropriate to academia.

"Last year we hired a journalist on staff," Hoag Levins, formerly of Ad Age, "and put other writers on staff who are good at translating reasearch finding into knowledge content that's accessible for people who are out ther making decisions or need to understand how things might work when they're considering policy options.

"We're not saying a policy is better. We're saying this is information that could help your decision.

"There's a new organziation on campus, the Wharton Public Policy Initiative, which started a month ago, which touches on a whole range of things Wharton [scholars study], one of which is health care. They will engage our organization.

"They're going to open an office in Washington" staffed by professionals "who will know, if we write a translation type of story, of someone who is well connected to put that information in the right people's hands, rather than just blast it out to everyone.

"I want to encourage our investigators to get involved in research that is more timley, of the moment. For example, there is a lot of talk of this idea of premium support in reforming Medicaid. There's not a lot of research about the idea as a broad-based strategy. Can someone design an academic study that could shed some light? We want to get the investigators to be committed to getting the content right."

Polsky says the institute has found the cross between scholars and journalists "challenging. They come from different schools. It hasn't been easy to get the investigators who focus on research to focus on dissemination. But we think developing the infrastructure and having pilot programs and incentives to give the investigator the responsiblity to produce the issue brief" will improve the accessible version of the research product.

How about selling research to people who need good information? "I never thought of it. No. We work with research grants, ex ante."