|School||UCSF School of Medicine|
|Department||IHPS (Health Policy Studies)|
|Address||3333 Calif. St,Laurel Heights |
San Francisco CA 94143
Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, is a Professor of Health Policy in the School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. She holds a joint appointment in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine. Dr. Schmidt is also Co-Director of the Community Engagement and Health Policy Program for UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She received her PhD training in sociology at UC Berkeley and while there, completed doctoral coursework in public health, and also holds a masters degree in clinical social work.
Dr. Schmidt's central goal is to bridge the worlds of biomedical research, clinical practice and population health in ways that help us better understand some of the most pressing issues in health and health care today: the widening of health disparities, health system fragmentation, the vast burden of substance use and abuse on human health, disparities in access to health care and the failure to translate evidenced-based treatments into routine clinical practice. Substantive areas of her research include addiction, poverty and health, childhood obesity and disparities in access to primary and specialty care—all burdens that are profoundly influenced by the organization of care and the social environment. A hallmark of her research is blended methodologies: she incorporates historical-archival, ethnographic and quantitative methods into most of her studies as a way to cross-validate findings and better interpret their meaning. Since its inception, her research program has been stably funded through awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in combination with funding from private foundations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Commonwealth Fund, Atlantic Philanthropies and the Laura & John Arnold Foundation.
Dr. Schmidt's work on health and systems of care spans domestic and international collaborations. On the domestic front, from 1999-2006, she served as Principal Investigator for the Welfare Client Longitudinal Study (WCLS) that links five annual waves of survey data on the health of 718 California welfare recipients with qualitative data on the changing organizations that serve them. The WCLS team, which has included 22 scientific staff of wide-ranging ranks and disciplines, has collectively produced over 90 scientific presentations and publications, 3 dissertations, and 6 funded spin-off studies focusing on homelessness, poverty and violence, child welfare, and the intergovernmental dynamics of welfare reform policies affecting health. In a related line of NIH-funded research she has used large national surveys to tease apart how the financing and organization of care give rise to the significant under-utilization of addiction treatment that we see today, as well as to study disparities in addiction treatment and the impacts of medical marijuana policies on youth.
At the national level, her investigations have focused on health reform and health disparities, from both population-based and institutional perspectives. Understanding how our current problems came about puts us in a better position guide health care systems in how to do better. Dr. Schmidt's collaborations with UCSF’s Diane Rittenhouse, MD in Family and Community Medicine have sought to understand how best to strategically rebuild the healthcare safety net in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans along health reform’s model of the patient-centered medical home. Dr. Schmidt's work with UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) Community Engagement & Health Policy Program pursues organizational and financial levers to promote the adoption of evidence-based medical practices and public policies in San Francisco and beyond. Her efforts in the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership (SFHIP) have made possible her service as a scientific advisor to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in their efforts to craft evidence-based policies on childhood obesity via sugary beverage control, and to help the Health Department address homelessness citywide. Dr. Schmidt's work with the RWJF’s national quality improvement initiative, Advancing Recovery, is developing new organizational models for partnerships between service providers and government funders to promote evidence-based addiction treatment.
At the international level, Dr. Schmidt's research program began in the late-90s when she collaborated in the World Health Organization (WHO)/NIH Joint Project on Diagnosis and Classification of Mental Disorders, a multinational research effort to cross-culturally study and validate diagnostic criteria proposed for the International Classification of Diseases, Version 10 (ICD-10). Several publications from this work demonstrated pronounced cross-cultural variation in conceptions of addictive disorders and their management, particularly between developing and developed countries. Next, she collaborated with international colleagues from four countries on studies of alcohol and development, and service to the Priority Public Health Conditions Knowledge Network (PPHC-KN) of the UN/WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. The PPHC-KN seeks to develop novel, pragmatic ways to better social conditions for health worldwide, thereby moving us closer to the UN-chartered Millennium Development Goals. As lead author on the Alcohol Programme Node, she helped bring together what they already know about effective policies for reducing the alcohol-attributable global burden of disease with new thinking about novel, untried interventions.
Dr. Schmidt have carried experiences with WHO and the Social Determinants Commission into her current work on the growing worldwide epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Increasingly, her work focuses on evidence-based policy solutions via governmental and trade regulations that focus on the main preventable risk factors in NCDs, including alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy diet. This has led to new collaborations with UCSF’s Dr. Robert Lustig (pediatric endocrinology) on sugar and its links to alcohol, with Dr. Allyn Taylor from the Georgetown University Law School on building global regulatory systems to foster public health regulations on processed foods and beverages, with Dr. Gavin Yamey and others leading the UCSF Global Health Group on evidence-based policies targeting between-society health inequality, as well as collaborations with law school faculty in Hastings/UCSF Consortium on related issues. Dr. Schmidt's work in this area increasingly focuses on translational approaches that create a direct dialogue between scientists and public around sugar, obesity and chronic disease. She recently initiated a new research program to demonstrate this new strategy for translational medicine called SugarScience.org, funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
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