CHIPS: New Center Focuses on Health Policy, Innovation

Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Michelle Garrison and Jerome Dugan are members of the new CHIPS center. Photo by Elizar Mercado

From changes in school start times to interventions limiting sugary drinks, a new center in the School of Public Health is examining how policies shape our health on a range of issues.

The Center for Health Innovation & Policy Science (CHIPS), within the Department of Health Services, brings policy researchers together while providing training in health policy and health systems science. “We wanted to do two things,” says Jeffrey Harris, chair of Health Services. “Coalesce the faculty within the department who worked on innovation in health care, and create a place for the School to focus on policy and the science of policy.”

There’s no better example of how policy affects health than taxes on cigarettes – which raised prices and resulted in a dramatic drop in smoking, Harris says. He points to a similar effort by the city of Seattle to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks through a city-wide tax on most sweetened beverages. CHIPS affiliate researcher Jesse Jones-Smith is studying the impact of that tax on behavior.

The new center is led by SPH alumna and Research Associate Professor Michelle Garrison (PhD ’06, MPH ’99). It consists of 16 core faculty members, including recent hire Jerome Dugan, assistant professor of health services; Molly Firth, instructor and CHIPS policy and evaluation manager; and long-time policy expert Aaron Katz.

One of Garrison’s projects is evaluating the impacts of changes in school start times. Delaying middle school and high school start times has benefits for adolescents, she says, but also has other unintended consequences on things such as after-school participation rates and the number of students eating breakfast at school.

CHIPS produces policy briefs, and is working on a business plan to launch a policy and evaluation service. The center also plans monthly seminars on hot topics and hosts an annual health policy symposium.

Garrison is the School’s strategic hire in health policy, while Dugan holds the Leo Greenawalt Professorship in Health Policy. Greenawalt led the Washington State Hospital Association for 20 years and is former member of the Dean’s Council.

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