2019 MJB Health Advisory Team Visit

This month, the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute’s Smokler Center for Health Policy Research hosted visiting experts from its Health Advisory Team (HAT). This partnership, established in 1986, has allowed Smokler Center researchers to share ideas and experience with international health policy experts and receive top-level input that helps them improve the quality and impact of their work.

Five team members arrived this year from three countries:

  • Team Chairman, Prof. Gary Freed, pediatrics and health management & policy researcher at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, as well as a previous director of the Australian Health Workforce Institute
  • Bruce Landon, health care policy researcher at Harvard Medical School and of medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Raphael Wittenberg, a principal research fellow in the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the London School of Economics, as well as the deputy director of the Centre for Health Service Economics & Organisation
  • Fiona Sim, lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and visiting professor at the University of Bedfordshire, as well as the chairperson of the Royal Society for Public Health
  • Jonathan Javitt, chairman and cofounder of NeuroRx, a pharmaceutical company, as well as a health advisor to four US presidential administrations, now residing in Israel

The visit kicked off on Monday, June 10th with an overview of recent developments in Israeli health care (link to upcoming article), presented by MJB researchers Ira Yaari and Ruth Waitzberg. The presentation discussed digital access to medical information, and services being added to Israel’s health basket, among other issues.

One of the features of the visit most appreciated by Smokler Center staff was the opportunity for one-on-one meetings with these visiting experts with whom they share professional interests. These meetings are used to both receive input on research programs, and get advice on personal career development. Highlights from Monday include a meeting of MJB researchers Tamar Medina Artom and Bat-Sheva Hass conferring with Prof. Landon and Prof. Freed on their study of patient-centered care in fertility clinics. Drawing from his own work helping health service providers improve their quality of care, Landon outlined ways that MJB could encourage clinics to be open about the study’s results, and to learn from other clinics’ approaches toward patients. Later the same day, Ministry of Health Deputy Director General Vadim Perman led a session on the next decade of health issues and trends, including pressures on the hospital system, and the changes needed to service Israel’s aging population. In addition, Ministry of Health Associate Director General Itamar Grotto met with the team to talk about Israel’s response to the recent measles epidemic.

On Tuesday, the HAT members and several MJB staff headed to Tel Aviv to visit the research centers of two very large health plans – Maccabi and Meuhedet.

Maccabi is currently building a platform to efficiently comb through longitudinal data from 2.5 million patients. The meetings discussed the health plans’ extensive data banks and potential partnerships for current and future MJB studies.

An important feature of the visit was the interfaces between MJB’s health teams and other teams at MJB. These included a meeting on Tuesday with the children and youth teams, and meetings on Wednesday with the Arab population team and the aging team. At these meetings, MJB staff presented an overview of current and recent work, while HAT members discussed types of studies at these interfaces being undertaken in other countries that might be applicable to Israel as well.

Wednesday’s program began with a meeting on health policy and the Arab population.

key feature of the Wednesday program was a symposium in which Prof. Landon made an in-depth presentation on the use of existing databases for research. Additional tips were shared by the three commentators: Professors Michael Hartal, Gary Freed, and Jonathan Javitt.

The HAT members also met with MJB executive director Prof. Michael Hartal, MJB external relations director Dr. Keri Warshawsky, and Smokler Center director Dr. Bruce Rosen, to provide input on the Smokler Center’s strategic directions and to discuss ways for HAT members to continue to contribute to the work of the Center.

The Health Advisory Team’s annual visit is always beneficial and inspiring. Prof. Freed stresses the value of the “collaborative learning and continuous improvement” that an international partnership creates. Furthermore, he finds that mentoring and supporting MJB is especially rewarding for HAT members. Asked why he took on the role of team director, Freed answered, “I believe in the mission of MJB to make a difference in the lives of the people of Israel.”