July/August 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 6

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New Policy Brief Series in JHSB

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Debra Umberson, University of Texas-Austin, JHSB Editor

Increasingly, policymakers look to sociologists to provide guidance in promoting population and community health and reducing social disparities in health and healthcare. Much of the research published in JHSB is directly relevant to these policy concerns, yet policymakers, the media, and the general public are not likely to have the time or training to closely read JHSB research articles and then translate those findings into policy.  Beginning with the March 2011 issue of JHSB, we published the first in a new Policy Brief series aimed at these audiences. These one-page briefs summarize key research findings and lay out the policy implications of those findings. Graphics are presented to illustrate important results in an easy to understand format. The policy issue is also highlighted in the form of a question on the top banner of the Brief.

The Journal of Health and Social Behavior has a long-standing reputation as the place for cutting-edge research on social aspects of health and illness.  JHSB publishes papers reflecting the full range of issues in health, illness, and healing. Recent issues include theoretical as well as empirical papers, international and U.S.-based research, research on health-care policy and professions, social networks, health behaviors, life-course health processes including cumulative disadvantage, and research using biomarkers and focusing on social-genetic interaction. JHSB articles rely on both quantitative and qualitative methods.

JHSBís mission statement requires that research inform our understanding of sociological theories relevant to health, illness and healing. Thus, JHSB articles use health issues to inform our understanding of inequality and the production of disparities, social-psychological consequences of adverse experiences and events, how professionals make decisions about their patients and evaluate one another, and how health care systems are shaped by political and economic processes. The JHSB Policy Brief series is designed to help illustrate the link between this cutting-edge sociological research on health and health in "the real world." 

The new Policy Brief series extends a long history of JHSB research contributions that can be used to inform health policy.  In 2010, JHSB celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special issue specifically designed to inform policymakers and the broader public about key findings from sociological research that have shaped our understanding of health, illness, and healing, and the implications of these findings for policy. Janet Hankin and Eric Wright were the guest editors of this special issue, titled "What Do We Know? Key Findings from 50 Years of Medical Sociology" and funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A science writer produced an executive summary to highlight key findings and this was distributed widely to the press, policymakers, funding agencies and other interested audiences. Then-Editor Eliza Pavalko, and the Indiana editorial offices also made all of the articles from the extra issue available for free on the ASA website. The Policy Brief series then extends this tradition of translating research into policy. Currently, we choose one article from each issue of JHSB and work with the author(s) to develop a Policy Brief. You can take a look at the most recent Policy Brief at www.asanet.org/journals/jhsb/policybriefs.cfm.

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