Sep 18, 2013, 11:00 AM, Posted by
Pioneer Blog Team
It’s easy to laugh off conspiracy theories. But what if studying them could tell us something new and important about what drives people’s health behavior?
Eric Oliver hopes to do just that. A professor of political science at the University of Chicago, Oliver has studied the origins and impact of political conspiracy theories. Now, with Pioneer’s support, he’s turning his attention to the realm of health, investigating medical conspiracy theories and how they influence people’s habits and decisions.
The Pioneer web team recently interviewed Oliver about his research; here’s an edited transcript of that exchange. You can also learn more about the grant here.
Pioneer: You've heard the old expression, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn't mean they aren’t out to get you.” Are conspiracy theories by definition always wrong?
Eric Oliver: They are not wrong per se. Conspiracies do sometimes occur (think of Nixon and Watergate). But as a researcher, I try to remain decidedly agnostic about the truth claims of conspiracy theories. Lily Tomlin once quipped, “What is reality but a collective hunch?”, and I generally agree that knowledge is socially constructed.
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Aug 7, 2013, 1:00 PM, Posted by
Today, the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, Inc. (HCI3®) released “Improving Incentives to Free Motivation,” a report developed with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), that makes a bold assertion: Financial incentives won’t fix our payment problems in health care.
In a guest post on The Health Care Blog today, I outlined why simply throwing more carrots and sticks at doctors and patients won’t improve the quality or affordability of our health care:
Until we get [the] human motivators right in health care, we can try all sorts of complicated, elegant payment models and formulas and still ultimately not get to the goal of sustainable high value. It will always be just over the horizon. Let's absolutely be smart about incentives in health care, but let's also get away from talking about simple carrots and sticks. Instead, let’s find the right mix of motivators to promote the creativity we need to get the best care every single time.”
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Jul 24, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by
We at Pioneer are fortunate to work with grantees who consistently challenge our thinking and open us up to new ways of looking at the world. Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH is no exception. We recently watched a talk of his on Edge.org titled A New Kind of Social Science for the 21st Century (which we highly recommend), and found ourselves brimming with questions. His answers were as provocative as the talk itself, so we thought we'd share them. Read the Q&A.
Jul 10, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by
Determined to increase my productivity and keep my desk free from clutter, I recently read an excellent book that several friends recommended to me called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. We at Pioneer talk quite a bit about what it takes to change behavior – what kinds of innovations can we support that will help more people embrace healthy habits? Implementing this book’s recommendations reminded me just how stressful change can be – even change that’s designed to reduce stress! And it got me thinking about how important it is to base any innovation on a real understanding of the people it effects.
I recently spent the day at the MedStar Institute for Innovation -– at Pioneer, we’re always interested in learning more about other units within large organizations that are focused on innovation (and we love to play host, too). Anyway, the folks at MedStar spoke quite a bit about human factors engineering. If you aren’t familiar (I wasn’t), human factors engineering is about accepting the fact that humans will inevitably make mistakes, and designing environments and tools that take that inevitability into account, so that the impact of mistakes is significantly decreased. Human factors engineering often goes hand-in-hand with extensive usability testing.
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Jul 3, 2013, 11:15 AM, Posted by
On my way out to visit the Calit2 team that is running the Health Data Exploration project (sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio), I read Alissa Quart's excellent piece in Newsweek about the Quantified Self (QS) movement and health. The article covers many of the possible benefits as well as the downsides of self-tracking.
As Quart acknowledges, she also focuses quite a bit on the edge cases, the extreme QSers, painting a picture that can seem a little ridiculous. It’s inevitable; whenever a new technology emerges, a subset of early adopters takes it to the extreme, making the technology and its applications easy for us to mock (see "glasshole").
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