Anne Weiss, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

TITLE: Director

FUNDING AREAS: Health and healthcare

CONTACT: aweiss@rwjf.org, 877-843-7953

IP TAKE: Weiss gets that the issues of quality and equity in healthcare are inextricably linked.

PROFILE: Before Anne Weiss joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 1999, this Detroit native by way of Harvard's Kennedy School, oversaw the indigent care program in New Jersey hospitals and directed the implementation of New Jersey's subsidized health-care program for the working uninsured. Weiss also spent 10 years in the thick of policymaking in Washington, D.C. Her experience there includes some heavy program analysis for the Office of Management and Budget, a stint with the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, and a role on the board of the National Association of Health Data Organizations.

Now Weiss directs Robert Wood Johnson Foundation projects related to what her organization refers to as "Quality/Equality Health Care." She and her team focus on increasing access to and availability of health care in different communities throughout the United States. Weiss's projects typically deal with technical assistance in assessing patient perceptions of health-care quality, improving transparency in the finance of medical care, and improving the accessibility of health-care data for patients.

The foundation's biggest initiative in Weiss's area is called Aligning Forces for Quality: The Regional Market Project, which addresses both quality and equity in healthcare, issues which often operate hand-in-hand in a system with huge racial and ethnic disparities in care. The initiative seeks to promote better quality care, reduce those disparities, and identify successful approaches that should be scaled up nationally. 

This is a huge project involves 16 diverse communities around the U.S. It's also put up significant funds for technical assistance and research related to the project. Weiss's team funds lots of other interesting stuff, too. Like the almost $70,000 to assess the value of a family-based fitness facility's ability to improve the diet and health in a low-income New Jersey community, or the $2 million grant in 2013 to the Lown Institute to address "the scope, causes, and consequences of overuse of medical procedures and treatment and to share remedies and best practices." Both of these touch on popular topics for the foundation. For the former, the causation effect of childhood obesity and family behavior; for the latter, the billions and billions wasted by U.S. healthcare providers on unnecessary tests and procedures. 

Weiss places great value on transparency in the medical field. Her team's grants have sought to advance the measurement of physician performance, and she's written about how the ability to compare and assess physicians using the web will improve care for Medicare patients. (Anyone who's tried to find a doctor latelyMedicare patient or otherwisehas some idea of how opaque the doctor selection process can be.) 

Weiss keeps an active media presence. She's an expert on the study of hospital readmissions, and has given an insightful interview on the subject to the Health Works Collective. Weiss indicates that, by reducing the rate of unnecessary hospital readmissions for America's elderly, we can improve patient health and save the United States billions of dollars.

In explaining why behavioral, as well as structural, approaches to health-care policy are important in improving the American health-care system, Weiss says:

 ... in my heart, I don't think at this point in our health care system that there is a substitute for people understanding their conditions, understanding the behaviors that put them at risk, getting information that was proven to work, talking to the doctors, participating in making informed choices. And I don't think we have the health care structure in the market yet that allows us to stop behaving that way as patient and consumers.

Probably true. Still, it's comforting to know there are folks like Weiss working to improve structural problems to the unequal distribution of quality health care in this country.

Also of note: Weiss keeps a up an informative Twitter account, where she shares health-care research that she finds relevant. From Twitter, we also learn that Weiss is an alto and a havurahnik.