Dr. Suzanne M. Miller, Vice-Chair of the Board of the Quality Institute, has been appointed as editor-in-chief of Translational Behavioral Medicine. She is professor of Cancer Prevention and Control at Fox Chase Cancer Center/Temple University Health System.
Can you tell us about your new role and the aims of this unique medical journal?
Instead of pills and treatments, our journal, as the name implies, focuses on behavioral medicine — how people can improve their health by changing their behavior. Perhaps it’s how to stop smoking and stay tobacco-free, or how to increase behaviors, such as exercise, physical activity, and disease screening, that can improve health. We focus on how behaviors, thoughts, attitudes and knowledge impact wellbeing and decision making. We’re advancing the science to support physicians and public policy makers who want to encourage change that can truly improve people’s lives.
How does the work of the journal fit in with the mission of the Quality Institute?
We have the same goals: to improve health care. At the journal, we are trying to improve health care delivery by bringing practitioners and stakeholders from all corners to the table so they can work together. We have a wealth of experience and knowledge about how to engage hard-to-reach communities and incentivize and motivate people with culturally relevant interventions. That work fits in with the work of the QI Collaborative. Here’s an example. We found that texting was the best way to reach pregnant women in some inner cities. These moms-to-be remained smoke-free during pregnancy, but sometimes went back to smoking after their babies were born. We texted them right at the hospital with information about ways to create a smoke-free environment for their babies. It was a successful intervention.
TBM aims to bring actionable science to practitioners. How does your mission differ from that of a traditional medical journal?
Our journal is not exclusively for researchers. Our research and articles have value for practitioners, policymakers and patients right now. I have been a cancer researcher for many decades and I learned we have to do more than just talk to each other through journals and at conferences and symposia. We have to spread the message when we find evidenced-based ways to help people make changes that benefit their health. Each of our articles must state the implications of its findings — not just for other researchers but also for policy makers and providers. The articles are about actions that can make a difference if put into practice today.
Your latest issue includes a range of articles, from adherence to medication regiments to the use of community health works to support low-income, urban-based Latino patients with diabetes. Can you pick one study that strikes you as particularly exciting?
I was moved by the article about the value of using community health workers to reduce stress among Latinos with diabetes. Latinos have higher than average rates of diabetes and for some of these patients health takes a backseat to other stressors and critical needs in their lives. The article shows how community health workers who understand this population and have the necessary education can pass on strategies to improve the health of people with Type 2 diabetes. There are implications for this research. For instance, the Affordable Care Act covers community health workers, which cost less than psychologists or physicians. Providers can consider employing community health workers. The ways our research can support change right now makes our journal unique.
Do you have plans for change at the journal?
We do indeed. We want to expand our impact and partner with like-minded non-profit organizations, such as the Quality Institute. We want to create one-pagers with salient information for busy clinicians. We want to increase our reach through traditional and social media — and get stakeholders talking with each other. Our laboratory is the real world and our research holds profound implications for all of us.