Loading
Print This Issue
Subscribe:
E-Almanac

Research Roundup

PDF
May 10, 2011, Volume 57, No. 33

Mobile Polling Breaks Voting Barriers for Seniors in Long Term Care Facilities

For seniors, voting can be difficult: standing frailly with a walker or cane in the voting booth, struggling to read the tiny print on the ballot or stopping a Parkinson’s-like tremor to punch the intended candidate’s spot. Despite mental lucidity and desire, the typical voting process leaves many seniors disenfranchised, particularly for residents of long term care facilities.

A Penn Medicine study of a process called mobile polling—where election officials register voters onsite, then bring voting ballots to long term care residents and provide voter assistance as needed—found that nursing home residents, staff and election officials all agreed that mobile polling is better than current voting methods. Not only did the mobile polling efforts guarantee residents their right to vote, but according to the nursing home staff, it also brought dignity to residents. The study appears in the Election Law Journal.

“Mobile polling effectively provides nursing home residents with assistance but without bias, ” said Dr. Jason Karlawish, associate professor of medicine and medical ethics.

Study co-investigator Charlie Sabatino, director of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging explained that “Mobile polling is standard in other countries that have been studied, but has not been widely adopted in the United States, despite close elections where every vote counts as well as recent recommendations from the American Bar Association to improve voting practices in long-term care settings.”
The study was conducted in the state of Vermont during the 2008 general election. 

According to survey results, nursing home staffers reported being uncomfortable when tasked with the role of helping residents vote using traditional voting methods, especially given concerns for assisting voters too much. The mobile polling system, however, “took a lot of pressure off,” according to staff member reports.

To help election officials determine whether individual residents needed assistance, the research team developed a procedure to provide appropriate and effective assistance. For instance, election officials could read the ballot to residents, and if the resident asked questions, the election official only responded with answers written on the ballot.

According to researchers, mobile polling should be considered on a state-by-state, county-by-county basis. Election officials need to be willing to perform mobile voting and provide staff to go to nursing homes.

University-supported Housing Outperforms Philadelphia Housing

Recent research by scholars at the Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR) have found that homes in the University City neighborhood have increased in value by significantly more than the average Philadelphia home during the past 13 years of volatile house price movements. The researchers found that in the Penn Alexander catchment area housing prices did not fall in this period of national decline. Using data updated through 2011, Q1 housing prices in this area increased annually at a 24% rate. For the same period, in the City of Philadelphia home prices increased by 7.5% per year.  In the Penn Alexander area, home prices are 6% above their levels in 2007 while home prices in Philadelphia are now 16% down from their 2007 peak.

In a briefing paper by Kevin Gillen and Susan Wachter titled “Neighborhood Value Updated:  West Philadelphia Price Indexes,” the authors find that the typical home in the University City area has appreciated in value by as much as three times the average Philadelphia home during the 1998-2011 period.  

Rents, however, have remained remarkably stable, an important outcome for affordability. The rent-to-income ratio for University City actually declined between 2000 and 2010, which likely came from an expanded housing supply that alleviated pressure on overall rent levels.  But, the fact that house prices and housing supply have outpaced rent increases during this period is consistent with the notion that the neighborhood’s overall desirability also increased during this period, as well as optimistic expectations on behalf of households for this desirability to continue in the future.
The full study with graphics can be found at: www.slideshare.net/PennUrbanResearch/neighborhood-value-updated-west-philadelphia-price-indexes

Dr. Susan Wachter is the Richard B. Worley Professor of Financial Management and professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School.  Dr. Wachter is also professor of city and regional planning at the School of Penn Design and co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research.

Kevin C. Gillen is a vice president of Econsult Corporation.

Preventing Chronic Diseases in People Living with HIV/AIDS

A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that interventions to promote healthy behaviors, including eating more fruits and vegetables, increasing physical activity, and participating in cancer screenings appear beneficial for African-American couples who are at high risk for chronic diseases, especially if one of the individuals is living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

Since medications being used to treat HIV, particularly highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), have been successful, they are now living longer and are at risk for developing other chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“This study is important, demonstrating that a theory-based contextually appropriate intervention which teaches skills caused positive changes on multiple behaviors linked to chronic diseases in African American members of HIV-serodiscordant couples,” said study co-author John B. Jemmott III, professor of communication in psychiatry and of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and Annenberg School for Communication, who led the Philadelphia trial site for the trial.

Cardiovascular Patients’ Perspectives On Guilt as a Motivational Tool

Current research supports the notion that lifestyle choices influence cardiovascular health, but to what extent specific emotions play is undefined. Now, new research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has revealed the role that guilt may play as a motivational tool for cardiovascular patients.

Penn researchers interviewed 100 adult cardiology outpatients about the role that guilt plays in their adherence to instructions given by their physicians and as part of their views of their own health. The majority of the patients reported that guilt provides motivation to make lifestyle changes; this finding was associated with having children but no other demographics. When asked whether providers should routinely address guilt with their patients, over half of the patients said yes. Patients with a religious affiliation were more likely to answer that health practitioners should routinely address guilt.

Of the entire sample, 66 percent of patients had experienced a major cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack. Just over 20 percent of these patients reported feelings of guilt related to their health.  However, half of these patients wished they had taken better care of themselves, but had no feelings of guilt relating to their health. The study results were reported at the 2011 American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans.

“When counseling cardiovascular patients about lifestyle, practitioners should consider addressing guilt as both a motivation for, and a barrier to, lifestyle change, particularly in patients with religious backgrounds,” concluded senior author James Kirkpatrick, assistant professor of medicine, cardiovascular medicine division at Penn. “Further research is needed to explore the impact of guilt motivation on patient outcomes.”

Male High School Athletes: Higher Risk of Gambling

Although athletics are a healthy and popular extracurricular activity in American high schools, it also has its risks. The recent poker craze among adolescents in the U.S. was driven largely by interest in poker play among high school male athletes, a just-released analysis of adolescent gambling in the National Annenberg Surveys of Youth (NASY) indicates. The analysis conducted by the Adolescent Communication Institute at the Annenberg Public Policy Center examined the responses of over 2,000 high school males over the period of 2002 to 2008. It found that the rise in gambling on cards among high school age youth that occurred from 2003 to 2006 was attributable primarily to male youth who participated frequently in sports, about 55% of high school males. At its peak in 2005 over 19% of male athletes reported playing cards at least once a week. This was compared to less than 4% of males who did not participate in athletics on a frequent basis. The survey indicated that female youth were much less likely to engage in poker play at all and were therefore not a focus of the study.

The findings suggest that high-status male youth, a group that includes athletes, were at the center of the poker craze that occurred during the last decade. High-status students tend to have close-knit peer networks that enable them to organize poker and other parties at their homes. Other youth, who were likely left out of these networks, were less likely to gamble, and when they did tended to engage in more formal gambling activities (e.g., state lotteries and slot machine parlors) that do not require the cooperation of peers. Moreover, in most states these gambling activities are restricted to persons at least 18 years of age and would therefore be off limits to most high school age youth. 

Almanac - May 10, 2011, Volume 57, No. 33