The first-ever recipient of the James B. Hudak Professorship of Health Policy, Paula Lantz, gave her inaugural lecture to about 150 students and faculty on Thursday night. The event focused on the history and current policies surrounding population health disparities.
The Ford School of Public Policy established the James B. Hudak Professorship of Health Policy in the spring of 2019 to be awarded to a faculty member at the University of Michigan who is engaging in research focused on both investigating and addressing of problems within the United States healthcare system.
In her introduction of Lantz, economics professor Susan M. Collins said Lantz is one of her close colleagues and someone with significant impact in the Public Policy School.
“There isn’t much happening at the Ford School that Paula hasn’t had a positive influence on in a variety of different ways,” Collins said.
Collins said Lantz is very knowledgeable in the field of population health and was the director for the University of Michigan Policies for Action Research Hub.
In an interview with The Daily prior to the lecture, Public Policy graduate student Andrew Krantz said he wanted to hear some of Lantz’s knowledge about her field, specifically that of the history of health disparities.
“I’m interested in hearing her explain some of the history of the population health disparities,” Krantz said. “I’m not as familiar with the literature on that, and from what I understand, she’s kind of an expert in that area.”
In her lecture, Lantz described the current state of population health in the U.S., pointing to certain statistics such as life expectancy, which has declined in the past few years. She also spoke about the differences in life expectancy according to varying social determinants of health, such as race and socioeconomic status.
“Any health topic we want to talk about — any disease, any health issue — is going to be patterned by social class and by race, ethnicity, gender, place; it goes on and on,” Lantz said.
Lantz voiced her concerns about the new definition and movement of Population Health Management. Though she said she is glad there are conversations about health disparities, Lantz said she fears the issues are becoming “medicalized” — the characterization of certain health outcomes as medical conditions to be treated when they could simply be symptoms of a health disparity.
The difference between health policy and health care policy was another focus of Lantz’s lecture.
“We have a hard time thinking about health without thinking about health care,” Lantz said. “But they’re not the same thing, and health disparities are not the same thing as health care access, quality, outcome disparities. Health equity is not the same thing as health care equity.”
Public Health junior Catherine Marudo told The Daily she was interested to learn about Lantz’s distinctions between health policy and health care policy, especially as an aspiring physician.
“I didn’t really realize there was a distinction where one was more downstream, which was health care policy, or one was more upstream, which was health policy,” Marudo said. “And I thought that was really interesting for somebody who is going to go into that field to come to that realization, because I thought it was just all upstream.”
In an interview with The Daily, Public Health junior Bianca Ghita said she believed the content that Lantz was delivering was important, but would perhaps have more impact on an audience less familiar with the information.
“There are things in our society that most people expect to function flawlessly, and these are things that, when they do, kind of get off track or there are issues with it, it angers a lot of people,” Ghita said. “I feel like her talk is really informative, and it was really great, but it would be really great for people that aren’t already super excited about this type of work.”