Penn Group Calls for Tobacco Divestment

In an open letter to the Penn’s Trustees, a group of Senior Standing Faculty are calling for the university to cease investing in tobacco company stocks. Such investments are “clearly antithetical to the university’s research, teaching and health care missions,” say the 532 faculty members who have signed the statement.

The ad hoc committee working on the issue has also published a report giving context for the push:

The University of Pennsylvania — a recognized leader in global outreach initiatives through its
internationally eminent university and academic medical center — is committed to making a positive contribution to people’s lives around the world. Yet we have fallen out of step with our Ivy League and medical school peers on the issue of tobacco. Of the five Ivies that have deliberated about tobacco investment, only Yale has not adopted a tobacco restriction for their endowment. Of the top five medical schools, Penn is the only one without a tobacco restriction. We believe this is inconsistent with the values of the Penn community as embodied in the Penn Compact and in our leadership, education, research, and service missions around the globe.

You can add your name to the letter here and keep up to date with the effort on the group’s Facebook page.

CPHI is committed to improving the health of populations and fully supports a policy of tobacco divestment for Penn. Read more about our statement on tobacco use and a smoke-free Penn campus here.

antithetical to the university’s research, teaching and health care missions – See more at:
antithetical to the university’s research, teaching and health care missions. – See more at:
antithetical to the university’s research, teaching and health care missions. – See more at:

MPH student explores shortfalls in ACA subsidy awareness

aca-signupIn a post on the LDI Voices blog co-written by MPH student Christopher Colameco and LDI’s Janet Weiner, the two take a look at why America’s uninsured don’t hold favorable opinions of the Affordable Care Act:


[In February], McKinsey & Company reported that 50% of those who shopped for a plan but did not enroll said that they could not afford the coverage. However, 66% of those who cited affordability issues were unaware of the ACA’s subsidy provisions.

Could it be that the uninsured hold the ACA in such little favor because they don’t know about how it could help them?

Chris has been doing his fieldwork with LDI, assisting in the creation of Data Briefs designed to describe the affects of the Affordable Care Act. The post came about after Chris noticed a pattern while doing some research. “I just thought that lack of awareness among the uninsured was startling and could certainly be having an affect on why this specific population views the law so negatively,” he explains.

You can read more about Chris’s work on the ACA in a Data Brief available here. The brief was recently cited by the New York Times in an article about the deadline to sign up for coverage under the ACA.

Karin Rhodes Team Receives Joint Grant

Karin RhodesReposted from LDI.

A proposal by Karin Rhodes and colleagues has been selected as the first to be funded by the interdisciplinary research program of Penn’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CCEB), Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) and Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI).

Launched in January, the program, officially called the joint CCEB/LDI/CPHI program for Seeding Innovative New Directions in Collaborative, Interdisciplinary Research on the Health of Populations, operates like an in-house “incubator” designed to foster cross-disciplinary projects throughout Penn’s health policy research community.

Seminar grant
The cross-center initiative’s first call for proposals offered a grant for a team of investigators to organize a seminar to examine an important health problem and identify the most fertile areas for further study.

The proposal selected for funding is a “Symposium to stimulate the development, implementation, and empirical testing of innovative transitions of care models” submitted by a team headed by Rhodes.

Rhodes, MD, is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and Director of the Division of Health Policy Research at the School of Social Policy & Practice.

The Condom Pledge: Working to Change Societal Norms around Condom Use


Partnership with Vietnam Youth Network for HIV Prevention in Hanoi, Vietnam

In response to HIV infection rates quickly climbing in youth around the globe, MPH student Jason Parad founded The Condom Pledge, a social marketing campaign to normalize condom use in young populations. Since its launch in March 2013, the campaign has partnered with more than a dozen international youth groups and garnered more than 25,000 supporters from 60 countries. Its logo–a right hand with concentric circles as the palm–has also become a global symbol for HIV prevention, inspiring the logos of other organizations such as the Immunity Project. The Society for Public Health Education will also honor Jason’s work at its annual meeting in Baltimore on March 20th with the Vivian Drenckhahn Scholarship Award. To help us better understand the background and success of this campaign, Jason answered the questions below.

How did you come up with the idea for The Condom Pledge?

Attending college in New Haven and graduate school in Philadelphia, I had been keenly aware of the growing HIV epidemic and the public health efforts leveraged in response. To promote condom use in particular, these efforts typically focused on increasing either sex education in schools or condom access in communities. However, it wasn’t until traveling throughout Asia when I realized that inadequate school education and community access were only parts of the problem. Far more important it seemed were the societal norms, which widely proscribed the use and, in some cases, discussion of condoms. Fortunately, in the midst of this realization, I was studying theories of health behavior change under leading experts in the field, Drs. Karen Glanz and Rosemary Frasso, who helped me to understand the problem from a social ecological perspective and develop a boldly simple intervention to normalize condoms on a global scale.

What are theories of health behavior change and how did you use them?

Within the past several decades, social scientists have sought to understand how to facilitate health behaviors such as condom use by crafting hundreds of different models. Among these, I identified three that were highly regarded and mutually compatible, namely, interorganizational relations theory (IOR), the transtheoretical model (TTM), and social cognitive theory (SCT). While the interplay among these theories is complex, I chiefly focused on the constructs of “promotional networking” from IOR, “behavioral contracting” from TTM, and “social role modeling” from SCT. The idea was that youth from various networks could first engage in a behavioral contract called “The Condom Pledge” and then publicize it–as a way to not only increase individual adherence to the contract but also empower other youth to follow suit.

Can you give an example of your collaboration with youth organizations?

While youth organizations around the world have done fantastic work promoting awareness for HIV, many have been without a tool to channel their broad advocacy into a specific intervention. Hoping to fill that void and contribute to a concerted prevention effort, we have set up partnerships thus far with 15 international groups. To give an example, Step Up 2 HIV is a nationally renowned HIV prevention project in Zimbabwe that engages youth through community dance performances. Working with its director, we helped to introduce into these performances our collaborative tagline “I Stepped Up 2 HIV by taking The Condom Pledge,” thereby allowing youth to take a concrete step toward an AIDS-free generation. Other work, for instance, has focused on training health educators with the Youth Association for Cambodia and developing a school-based campaign with the Vietnam Youth Network for HIV Prevention.

What has been the best part about working on The Condom Pledge?

To implement an international volunteer effort like The Condom Pledge requires, of course, a great deal of coordinated enthusiasm and cultural understanding. Fortunately, the outpouring of support from youth advocates and health professionals around the world has been truly phenomenal in making this campaign a reality. One particularly inspirational example was our World AIDS Day event in the Muslim country of Sierra Leone. After campaigning throughout its 14 districts and capital city, we assembled a band of young leaders to stage a brilliant march throughout Bo, a district capital with staggering rates of HIV. Shortly thereafter, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation gave a nod of approval by supplying us with condoms for all of our upcoming campaigns in the country.

What is your vision for the future of The Condom Pledge?

My vision for the campaign in the coming years is to promote The Condom Pledge as a novel approach to HIV prevention. Surprisingly, while abstinence pledges have long been studied as a potentially viable public health solution, the idea of a condom pledge has yet to appear in any academic journal. Also, similar to international youth advocacy groups, national HIV/STD Control Programs remain without a behavioral change tool to conveniently promote condoms. This year I have thus started to tackle these issues in my MPH Capstone project. By surveying directors of CDC-funded HIV/STD Control Programs, I hope to elucidate the national landscape of condom promotion, assess the integrative feasibility of The Condom Pledge, and publish my results to begin an important conversation in public health.

How can we follow the progress of The Condom Pledge?

You can visit our website at to learn more about our latest initiatives. For instance, we are currently mailing three condoms to youth in any country who send us their pictures taking The Condom Pledge. You can also check out the most recent campaign photographs on our Facebook page at Thank you once again for the opportunity to share this work, and I look forward to the CPHI community joining us online!

The Condom Pledge World AIDS Day March in Bo, Sierra Leone

The Condom Pledge World AIDS Day March in Bo, Sierra Leone

Public Meeting on E-cigarettes

The Committee on Public Health and Human Services of the Council of the City of Philadelphia will hold a Public Hearing on Thursday, March 13, 2014 to hear testimony on the following items:

An Ordinance amending Chapter 10-600 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Public Places-Prohibited Conduct,” by adding a new Section to prohibit the use of Electronic Smoking Devices in public places and in the workplace, under certain terms and conditions.


An Ordinance amending Chapter 9-600 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Service and  Other  Businesses,”  by  clarifying  penalties  for  violations  of  Section  9-622, entitled “Cigarettes and Tobacco Products,” and by adding a new section to prohibit sales of electronic smoking devices and unapproved nicotine delivery products to minors, under certain terms and conditions.

These ordinances would add e-cigarettes to the list of nicotine products prohibited in public places in Philadelphia.

Photo by flickr user ramseymohsen

Photo by flickr user ramseymohsen

According to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, “e-cigarettes are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), limited information is available on their contents, health effects, and their use for quitting or reducing smoking. This leaves the public, health agencies, and retailers with many unanswered questions.” The department does have a useful FAQ about this new kind of nicotine delivery system here.

Immediately following Thursday’s public hearing, a meeting of the Committee on Public Health and Human Services, open to the public, will be held to consider the action to be taken on the ordinances. Want to attend? The meeting and public discussion takes place starting at 1:00pm in Room 400, City Hall.

Student Spotlight: Jane Seymour

ReproHealthHeadshotJane Seymour is a second-year full-time MPH student.  Originally from Randolph Center, Vermont, Jane moved to the Philadelphia area to attend Haverford College and has lived in or near the city since.  In college, she studied public health, focusing her research on women’s reproductive health.

After graduation, she began work at the National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC), a Public Health Management Corporation affiliate, as an AmeriCorps VISTA. At NNCC, Jane worked to connect Federally Qualified Health Centers serving residents of public housing with resources to encourage long-term sustainability. After her AmeriCorps year, Jane was hired to continue this work and quickly found herself wanting to further her public health education to focus on epidemiology and return to her passion for reproductive health research.

While at the University of Pennsylvania, Jane has worked in the Mixed Methods Research Lab, on a project with CPHI Fellow Dr. David Grande assessing how researchers communicate health policy research to policymakers, and as a TA for Introduction to Principles and Methods of Epidemiology where she helped to develop cases for the course. She also volunteers as a handholder and escort at Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania where she is on the Board. For her MPH Capstone project, Jane is using cohort data to understand the relationship between early-life literacy and fertility outcomes through the reproductive lifespan. Jane plans to work in research for a year after graduation while applying to PhD programs in epidemiology. As a PhD candidate Jane hopes to continue work examining social disparities in reproductive health.

Fellow Spotlight: Dr. Baligh Yehia


– Daniel Calder, MPH; Baligh R. Yehia, MD, MPP, MSHP; and Neil Fishman, MD staff the new Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health

Today CPHI is featuring the work of Dr. Baligh Yehia, an Infectious Disease physician and CPHI Senior Fellow.

Dr. Yehia recently launched the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health. The program has several aims:

  • to nurture a LGBT-inclusive climate and culture at Penn
  • to advance LGBT health education and research
  • to improve LGBT patient care
  • to engage community organizations in the promotion of LGBT health

This interprofessional program is unlike any other LGBT health program in the country, engaging the Perelman School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Dental Medicine, Center for Public Health Initiatives, and affiliated health systems.


The new program was created to help clinicians be sensitive to the needs of LGBT people.

Why focus on LGBT health specifically? LGBT individuals experience multiple health disparities due to harassment, discrimination, and stigma. These individuals have higher rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug use, depression, suicide, certain cancers, and HIV/STI’s compared to their heterosexual counterparts. In addition, the LGBT community faces many barriers to high quality patient-centered care, including decreased access to healthcare, lack of awareness and insensitivity to their unique health needs, and inequitable health system policies and practices.

How can we help? The Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health is partnering with CPHI and the Leonard Davis Institute to address the health disparities and barriers to care within the LGBT community. On Tuesday April 1st, from 4:00 to 6:00pm, the program will host an educational event in the John Morgan Reunion Auditorium.  The event, entitled “Let’s Talk About Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Health: Realizing the unique health needs of the LGBT Community” will feature national and local leaders in LGBT health who will address the Affordable Care Act’s impact on LGBT community, LGBT research and education, and LGBT health and patient care in Philadelphia.

For more information: