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New postings and analysis from Health Affairs, the leading journal of health policy. Health Affairs publishes new research each week online at For more information, contact Chris Fleming at 301-347-3944.

Hospital Steps Ease Nurse Shortage In Near Term, But Long-Term Worries Persist

While many hospitals in twelve U.S. communities report that short-term measures, such as higher pay and temporary staff, have helped ease nurse staffing shortages, serious doubts remain about hospitals' ability to meet future nursing needs, according to a study by Center for Studying Health System Change researchers (HSC) published June 26 on the Health Affairs Web site. Across the communities, hospitals also are pursuing longer-term strategies to address the nurse shortage, including investing in nurse education and improving working conditions. However, a lack of nursing school capacity remains an important barrier to meeting long-term nursing needs.

Business Cycles Drive Coverage Trends In Several Ways, Say HSC Researchers

Four and a half million Americans gained employer-sponsored health insurance coverage during the 1997-2001 period, while nearly nine million lost coverage during the ensuing 2001-2003 economic downturn, researchers from the Center For Health System Change report in the May/June Health Affairs. Based on rounds one, three, and four of HSC's Community Tracking Study, conducted in 1996-97, 2000-01, and 2003 respectively, the researchers report that "business cycles are important drivers of short-term trends in employer coverage...primarily through workforce participation but secondarily through the average quality of jobs and family incomes."

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HSC Researchers Find Several Types Of Increased Hospital Construction

In 2005, new hospital construction and expansion of general hospital capacity was taking place in half of the twelve markets included in Round Five of the Center for Health System Change's Community Tracking Survey, HSC researchers report in the May/June Health Affairs. More common were three other manifestations of an overall trend towards increased hospital construction activity: new or expanded specialty service capacity; replacement of aged facilities; and expansion of capacity-constrained services. In many instances, hospitals appear to be using improved financial positions to meet community needs, but the increased construction also raises the danger of a costly "medical arms race" that leaves out low-income areas, the HSC researchers say.


Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. The peer-reviewed journal appears bimonthly in print with additional online-only papers published weekly as Health Affairs Web Exclusives at The full text of each Health Affairs Web Exclusive is available free of charge to all Web site visitors for a two-week period following posting, after which it switches to pay-per-view for nonsubscribers. The abstracts of all articles are free in perpetuity. Web Exclusives are supported in part by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund.


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