December 19, 2000
Volume 47
Number 16

Annenberg's $27.5 Million Endowment:

Institute for Adolescent Risk Communication

A $25 million endowment from the Annenberg Foundation of St. Davids, will be used to establish a new Institute for Adolescent Risk Communication at Penn's Annenberg Public Policy Center, according to an announcement last Wednesday by President Judith Rodin.

The new Institute will feature a unique cross-disciplinary approach to developing effective mass communications programs to address a major social concern--the propensity of adolescents to engage in a variety of "risky behaviors." The Institute will draw upon outstanding faculty members in medicine, social work, nursing, arts and sciences, and law to build upon extensive work already underway at the Annenberg Public Policy Center to evaluate and formulate mass media campaigns geared at minimizing high-risk behavior among adolescents. The Institute's work will focus on four critical areas: tobacco use; drug use; behaviors leading to sexually transmitted diseases; and suicidal behavior.

"This extraordinary gift from the Annenberg Foundation will help us find new ways to reduce the incidence of high-risk behavior among teenagers and ensure that they become healthy, happy and productive adults," President Rodin said. "The new Institute will harness the formidable efforts already underway in this area at the Annenberg Public Policy Center and provide important new opportunities for scholars to collaborate with colleagues at other schools and centers at Penn who are working on issues of adolescent behavior."

An additional $2.5 million will be used to establish the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Chair for the Director of the Public Policy Center at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication. The chair will be held by the director of the Center.

The Honorable Leonore Annenberg, Vice Chairman of the Annenberg Foundation, said: "With our nation increasingly focused on minimizing adolescent risk, this new Institute is poised to advance research in the field and contribute to a better understanding of the issues and treatments. Walter and I are pleased to be able to make these grants, which affirm our confidence in the work of the Public Policy Center and its leadership."

The Annenberg Public Policy Center has played an important role in evaluating and developing many mass media campaigns that attempt to alter the disposition of adolescents to engage in risky behaviors, said Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Major ad campaigns within the past decade have urged teens to avoid drugs and tobacco, use seat belts, not drink and drive, and avoid behaviors that can lead to the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. Other efforts have focused on reducing teen pregnancy.

"Most of these campaigns, and the research accompanying them, have concentrated on reducing one risky behavior at a time," she said. "What's lost in this 'single issue' approach is whether, for example, a successful anti-smoking campaign results in a decreased perception of the risks of drugs, or how the effectiveness of a particular campaign changes as very young teens grow older. What works for one campaign may actually be harmful to another.

"The new Institute will enable us to have, for the first time, an integrated focus on adolescent risk communications that will leverage our expertise and resources for the best possible results."

Dean Jamieson said that the Institute would also provide additional opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student research in adolescent risk. In addition, the Institute will host an international summit on issues surrounding adolescent risk in May 2001.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center has been actively engaged in projects relating to the four target risk behaviors. In the area of minimizing tobacco use by adolescents and encouraging adolescents who smoke to quit, the Policy Center sponsored a conference summarizing the scholarly literature, produced a book and secured funding for a national survey about adolescent risk perception about tobacco.

In 1997 and 1998, the Policy Center hosted conferences on the issues of minimizing the likelihood that adolescents will use illegal drugs and convincing those who do to stop. Research is currently being conducted on the efficacy of current anti-drug public service announcements and on models for future campaigns.

The Policy Center is currently evaluating interventions designed to minimize adolescent participation in risky sexual behavior that could lead to sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Finally, the Center is conducting research concerned with changing the ways in which the popular culture and the news media portray suicide.

The Annenberg Foundation is the successor corporation to the Annenberg School at Radnor, established in 1958 by the Honorable Walter H. Annenberg. It exists to advance the public well-being through improved communication. The foundation's current grant-making interests include youth development and public school reformation in the US.

For more information on the Annenberg Public Policy Center, visit www.appcpenn.org.

Special Medical Faculty-Trustee Committee on UPHS

The executive committee of the University's board of trustees met on Friday, December 8, in a regularly scheduled meeting, and authorized the appointment of a special joint committee of medical faculty and University trustees to consider options for the future of the Health System and to make recommendations to the full board of trustees.

President Judith Rodin will chair this special committee.

The trustees who will serve on the committee include:

  • James S. Riepe, chairman of the board;
  • Russell E. Palmer, vice chairman of the University's board and chairman of the UPHS board;
  • Michael L. Tarnapol, vice chairman of the University's board;
  • William L. Mack, University trustee and member of the executive committee of the UPHS board;
  • Shaun F. O'Malley, who will take office as a University trustee on January 1 and is a member of the executive committee of the UPHS board.

Faculty members appointed to the committee will include:

  • R. Nick Bryan, Professor and Chair, Radiology;
  • P. Leslie Dutton, Chair, Biochemistry and Biophysics;
  • Francisco Gonzalez-Scarano, Professor and Chair, Neurology;
  • David W. Kennedy, Professor and Chair, Otorhinolaryngology;
  • Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, Director, Institute on Aging;
  • David E. Longnecker, Professor and Chair, Anesthesia;
  • Michael T. Mennuti, Professor and Chair, Obstetrics and Gynecology;
  • Alan Wasserstein, Chair, Medical Faculty Senate.

President Rodin said that this special committee of faculty and trustees "will yield important wisdom in the assessment of future options for the Health System. Although the strategic consideration of such options is an ongoing process in an organization as large and complex as UPHS, we believe the new committee will make a special contribution."

She added that, "although UPHS is well on the road to financial recovery and just enjoyed a positive first quarter, the future is still uncertain. Among other things, the Health System carries a very sizeable debt burden, a majority of which is connected to HUP, and it will have to face large capital requirements over the next several years to support our academic and clinical missions, reinvest in our fixed assets, and cover debt service. Simply put, despite our improving financial performance, the task of securing all the funds UPHS will need will be a large one."

"The strategic consideration of organizational or structural options, including potential affiliations with other entities, is a routine process for effectively developing thoughtful, well-considered plans and strategies. Every academic health system in the country is engaged in this exercise at some level. Last spring, when the Health System formed its strategic planning group--including a number of department chairs, faculty, Health System and University administrators--one of the group's earliest assignments was to assess possible options for Health System components in the future," she continued.

The president set the stage for the creation of the committee explaining that "on various occasions since the Health System's financial difficulties began, the University's trustees have considered actions with a view to how they might enhance the Health System's ability to perform critical missions and its financial condition. These deliberations have been guided by UPHS status reports, strategic assessments by expert consultants, and regional and national analyses of health care finances."

"In recent months, other health care organizations and institutions have begun to express interest in possible joint ventures, partnerships and business relationships with UPHS. In response to these expressions of interest, Health System representatives have had preliminary conversations with more than one potential partner," she said.

President Rodin said, "For these reasons, the work of the new joint faculty-trustee committee will be important. It will be asked to focus on possible changes in the structure or organization of UPHS that could protect and enhance the academic mission of the School of Medicine, position UPHS to compete effectively in the commercial marketplace, and enhance its ability to raise capital."

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 16, December 19, 2000