Tag Archives: UNC Chapel Hill

Partnership Accelerates HIV/AIDS Research

Earlier this year, UNC-Chapel Hill and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a global, research-based pharmaceutical and health care company, announced our public-private partnership to zero in on what used to be perceived as an impossible task: finding a cure for AIDS.

This new venture comes after significant progress at the UNC School of Medicine and GSK to develop successful treatment options for HIV/AIDS. Qura Therapeutics, the new company we are partnering to create, will manage the business side of the new venture. The HIV Cure Center will serve as the hub of all of our AIDS research and will be located on our campus.

At UNC Health Care, we believe that smart, forward-looking and innovative partnerships are the key to a successful future in health care. The HIV Cure Center is one of those partnerships.

After 30 years of developing treatments at UNC, we see this joint venture as a tremendous step in tackling one of the most challenging health care problems of our time.

To learn more about Qura Therapeutics and the HIV Cure Center, click here.

Preventing Childhood Obesity

logo_letsmove

This week I have had some unique opportunities ? related to the growing efforts to do something about the epidemic of childhood obesity in our nation.

I have been asked to be one of the nine members of the inaugural board of directors of a new organization ? the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA, http://www.ahealthieramerica.org/about/board.html). We had our first board meeting this week in Washington, DC.

This new group is designed to be a non-partisan, private sector effort to catalyze work that is underway across many public and private organizations. One of the partners we will be working with is the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

First Lady Michelle Obama, courtesy White House

First Lady Michelle Obama, courtesy White House

The First Lady is the Honorary Chair of PHA, and the Honorary Vice-Chairs are former Senator Bill Frist (a Republican) and current Newark Mayor Cory Booker (a Democrat).

PHA intends to work closely with the First Lady's initiative, Let's Move! http://www.letsmove.gov/

While we were in DC this week, the PHA Board met for almost an hour with the First Lady and her key staff.

It is clear that she is deeply involved with and passionately committed to this initiative. She talked about what it means to her ? not only as first lady, but as a mother of two young daughters.

I was really impressed by Michelle Obama. Her grace, poise, intellect and beauty were striking.

What was also striking ? as I have told others afterwards ? is how tall she is! Coach Hatchell would have been glad to have her on the team!

There is surely lots more work for many people and organizations to do to turn around the epidemic of childhood obesity ? but I was pleased to have these inspiring experiences this week.

Stay tuned!

Unexpected turn in health reform

Health care reform just took a dramatic and unexpected turn.

Only a few weeks ago it seemed that the Congress was about to complete action on a fundamental overhaul of health care financing and delivery in America, and send this legislation to President Obama, so that he could sign and complete his top domestic policy priority before his first State of the Union Address.

But . the special election in Massachusetts, to fill the seat held for decades by Senator Edward Kennedy – astounded the nation and upended the plans for health reform. Scott Brown was elected – the first Republican to hold this seat since 1952!

This surprising election had many ramifications – but two were uppermost – the Senate Democrats now number 59, no longer can they end a filibuster and have their way; and elected officials around the country, especially Democratic House and Senate members, were asking themselves if they should back away from health reform, lest they suffer the same fate.

For a few days, there were several creative scenarios debated – ways for the Congress still to get health reform done quickly. However, now it seems that has quieted down, and it looks like this will be dragged out much longer.

Will we ultimately see big time health reform this year? I wish I were more optimistic – but I think the chances are now much less than 50-50. As I have repeatedly said – in this blog and elsewhere – we badly need to overhaul how we pay for and deliver health care, so that we cover the uninsured, do so at lower cost and with consistent quality and safety.

It is more likely now that we will see some more modest reform of health insurance, some expansion of Medicaid, and the launch of some demonstration projects for delivery reform. Those are not insignificant – we need to do them, but the disappointment is palpable. What could have been was much more.

My short-term prediction is that health reform will go quiet for several weeks – as the congressional leaders try to work out a smaller package behind the scenes. They will bring it forward only if and when they have it worked out and they are confident that they can get it done.

Once again – stay tuned. Maybe much longer.

Health Reform in 2010?

There are two weeks left in 2009, and there will be lots of holiday interruptions so the huge efforts to get agreement on a formula for national health reform, and push it through the Congress will surely go over into the New Year.

Each day seems to bring additional twists and turns to the tale one day our hopes are dashed, then the next day we learn of a new proposal which seems to have merit and support, then someone shoots it down.

With all of this I continue to believe that we will ultimately get large scale legislation passed and signed, and that it will overhaul our national health care system in substantial ways. And to be sure, we badly need to do this as a nation.

For months, one of the sticking points has been whether the legislation would establish a new public plan for health insurance that would give real competition to private health insurance. The theory has been that this would lower overall health care spending over time. The proponents of the public plan have criticized private health insurance loudly, and have heralded the public plan as the right idea for the future. Supporters of the public plan have tended to be from the left side of the political spectrum progressives as they are often called. But the notion of an effective alternative to private health insurance has been a popular notion with a broad array of citizens private insurers don't poll well these days.

But this fall the criticism of the public plan has centered on the idea it will simply add cost to an already very expensive health system, without really restraining spending much at all. And the Senate seems to lack the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster and pass the public plan.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came up with a new idea dropping the public plan altogether, and substituting for it a new idea (which has been around for decades). This new / old idea is to allow younger Americans to buy into the Medicare program so that people who are age 55 to 65 could join Medicare, with subsidies for those who cannot afford it on their own.

For a day or two it seemed that this might be a way around the impasse, but now some moderate Democrats have criticized this as being even more liberal than the public plan.

Who knows how this will turn out? We have many more twists and turns to navigate.

My prediction remains this will happen, meaning major health reform legislation will pass, in the early part of 2010.

The New Yorker magazine

The New Yorker magazine

For the first time, in addition, it seems that a growing number of legislators, policy wonks and pundits want actually to overhaul the health care system in some fundamental ways.

In this spirit, I recommend an article in last week's New Yorker magazine by Atul Gawande.

I believe he describes well the challenges we face in actually improving America's dysfunctional health care system.