University at Albany

A Culture of Health

The desire to contribute to the development of a culture of health is what motivates healthcare policy expert and prolific researcher Erika Martin. “My goal is to advance governmental capacity to translate public health research into evidence-based practice,” says Martin.

Regarded by colleagues as an insightful and highly productive scholar, a skilled analyst and a devoted partner to public health officials, Martin’s expertise is widely recognized and much sought after. Articles she’s written or contributed to have appeared in an array of leading publications including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and Health Affairs. Her research activities have brought in over $1 million in external funding to the State University of New York. As senior fellow and director of health policy studies at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, she wants to engage academic health policy and translational health researchers from across the State University of New York system to work on pressing public health problems confronting New Yorkers.

Kamiar Alaei

(From left) Erika Martin, PhD and
fellow Rockefeller health policy
scholar Ashley Fox, PhD

Dr. Martin has served by invitation on a National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine committee that produced two reports requested by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy regarding the most efficient use of data to assess and monitor the impact of the Affordable Care Act and the national HIV/AIDS strategy. As part of a fruitful partnership she’s forged with the New York State Department of Health, she recently finished a study of New York’s Federal-State Health Reform Partnership (F-SHRP) Medicaid waiver demonstration program which aimed to improve quality and reduce costs by restructuring multiple aspects of New York’s healthcare system, including acute and long-term care infrastructure, health information technology, and transitioning Medicaid clients into managed care.

“I find it invaluable to learn from my colleagues at the Health Department what the important questions are and what kind of evidence they need to make key decisions,” says Martin.

Last year, Martin received a twoyear career development award from the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for which she’s undertaking research on making open health data more useful for public health practitioners and researchers. The Open Data Project examines health-related data freely available to the public and provided in accessible and varied formats on government agency websites. “Ideally, data will be used by practitioners, researchers, and developers to conduct new research, develop health applications, make health information more accessible, and promote data-driven quality improvement,” says Martin.

The project involves yet another partnership with the New York State Department of Health. Martin is working closely with Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Public Health Guthrie Birkhead and former Rockefeller colleague and alumna Natalie Helbig, MPA ’01, PhD ’10, director of the Health Data N.Y. Project.

“I will use my findings to make recommendations about how public health agencies can release their data in ways that can facilitate connections among practitioners and researchers, ultimately increasing the impact of these data on public health,” explains Dr. Martin. Though she is still completing her research, practitioners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and open health data teams from a number of other states have already expressed interest in her findings.

With an indefatigable advocate and scholar like Erika Martin leading the way, a culture of health is genuinely achievable.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 Rockefeller College News Magazine.