The Healthy Nudge
April 2021
Welcome to The Healthy Nudge. Each month, we'll get you up to speed on the latest developments in policy-relevant health behavioral economics research at CHIBE. Want more frequent updates? Follow us on Twitter @PennCHIBE and visit our website.
Comprehensive mitigation strategies to prevent, control transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools
stack of books
A recent CDC report found that a New Jersey school with students living both on and off campus reduced the spread of COVID-19 on campus using multiple strategies that included: frequent testing, universal mask wearing, a requirement that people keep 6 feet apart, improved ventilation, behavioral reinforcement, and contact tracing. Of nearly 1,200 people, 19 faculty and staff and 8 students tested positive for COVID-19 during the fall semester, with 2 cases likely due to on-campus spread. Prevention measures can reduce COVID-19 outbreaks in school settings even when there is ongoing spread in the surrounding community. Read more in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and find media coverage from Philly Voice, featuring co-author and CHIBE Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, and in US News & World Report.
Leveraging behavioral economics to advance health equity in cancer care
In this JCO Precision Oncology commentary, the authors propose 3 strategies to advance health equity in precision oncology that leverage behavioral economics principles and the EHR to empower clinicians to overcome race as a heuristic in their medical decision making. This paper was led by Drs. Kelsey S. Lau-Min, CHIBE affiliate Carmen E. Guerra, Katherine L. Nathanson, and CHIBE affiliate Justin E. Bekelman.
Dr. Karen Glanz named to NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Integration Working Group
Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, George A. Weiss University Professor and a CHIBE-affiliated faculty member, has been named to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (BSSR) Integration Working Group. “Most of the leading public health issues facing our nation— including cancer, addiction, heart disease, mental illness, diabetes, violence, and AIDS—are rooted in individual and social behavior, yet behavioral science is decentralized across NIH’s Institutes and Centers, and the NIH commitment to manage and directly fund this important research is limited,” the NIH stated. “The Committee directs the Director to convene a special advisory panel of behavioral scientists and other community experts to complete an assessment providing recommendations on how to better integrate and realize the benefits to overall health from behavioral research at NIH.” Read more about Dr. Glanz and this working group here.
CHIBE Q&A with Dr. Raina Merchant
Raina Merchant
Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, FAHA, is Director of the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health. She is also an Associate Vice President at Penn Medicine and Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. She has secondary appointments in the Department of Internal Medicine, the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Division of Health Policy, and she serves as Co-Director of the Penn National Clinician Scholars Program. Dr. Merchant recently became a CHIBE-affiliated faculty member as well. Read our Q&A to learn more about her.

What projects are you working on right now?

Much of work is at the intersection of digital platforms and health care and focuses on how to improve care through data mining and connecting with patients remotely. We are doing projects focused in areas such as: women's health and improving access to care, public health preparedness and increasing vaccine uptake, cardiovascular health and improving risk prediction, and mental health and identifying new approaches to measurement-based care.
Can you tell us about some of your work with Bold Solutions so far?
Through Bold Solutions, we are identifying areas with significant inequity in health care where we can use behavioral economics, innovation principles, and digital platforms to try and reduce disparities and the sequelae of racism and discrimination. This may encompass efforts across a spectrum of conditions and topic areas including hypertension, diabetes, substance use disorder, women's health, COVID-19 vaccine uptake, and cancer care. Our focus is on science and advocacy and developing approaches that are scalable across our region and can be adapted across health care-focused organizations and groups.
You recently published a paper showing that language used on social media can provide insights about an individual’s atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk. Your team found that patients with higher ASCVD scores were more likely to use words associated with sadness. Could you tell us your thoughts on why you think this association might exist?
This is early work and identifies associations (e.g. mental health and cardiovascular disease) between online language and health conditions. Our current work, funded through an NHLBI R01, "Digital phenotyping and cardiovascular health," is evaluating the strength of these associations in a larger sample, across platforms, and over time.
April 23 from 12-1 PM EST
A Virtual Conversation with Sarah Downer, JD, Benjamin Perkins, MA, MDiv, and Hilary Seligman MD, MAS, moderated by Christina Roberto, PhD
Co-sponsored with CHIBE
Food has a clear impact on health and well-being, and the Food as Medicine movement embraces this concept by not only recommending healthy food but also providing it to those in need. From medically tailored meals to fruit and vegetable prescriptions and vouchers, community-based organizations, payers, and health care systems are addressing food insecurity and helping individuals prevent and manage chronic illness. Join our panel of experts to discuss Food as Medicine programs, their outcomes, and the opportunities and challenges in sustaining them. Free and open to the public. Find more details here.
Penn faculty, staff, and graduate and professional students are invited to take this online, master's-level course. Find out how to sign up for this course or others on Penn's Master of Health Care Innovation website.

May 4–June 14, 2021
Strategies for Health Insurance and Benefit Design & Health Law Fundamentals (This 6-week course pairs two 3-week topics)
Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD, and Dean Ted Ruger, JD
In the first half of the course, Dr. Volpp will discuss some of the main challenges facing health insurers, efforts to reduce growth in entitlement spending, and research that uses the effectiveness of different strategies to modify behavior through the use of incentives embedded within health insurance design. In the second half of the course taught by Penn Law's Dean Theodore Ruger, students will examine the legal and regulatory aspects of the United States health care delivery and financing systems.
Employees may be able to apply tuition benefits.
Selected Media Coverage
Selected New Publications
The Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) at the University of Pennsylvania conducts behavioral economics research aimed at reducing the disease burden from major U.S. public health problems. Originally founded within the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, our mission is to inform health policy, improve health care delivery, and increase healthy behavior.