Announcing the Four Winners of Inaugural J-PAL Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition


We are delighted to announce today that J-PAL North America has selected CareOregon, Commonwealth Care Alliance, the Northeast Delta Human Services Authority and the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections as the winners of the inaugural Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition. Over the next year, we will work with these four organizations to develop randomized evaluations of innovative programs with the potential to serve as models for improving the health of vulnerable populations. The pioneering efforts of the winners touch on major public health issues: addressing the opioid epidemic, improving social determinants of health, integrating primary and behavioral health care, and engaging high-cost, high-need patients.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with these four innovative organizations to generate evidence with the potential to inform the practice of health care across the United States,” said Amy Finkelstein, the John & Jennie S. MacDonald Professor of Economics at MIT and co-Scientific Director of J-PAL North America.

CareOregon, a nonprofit health plan serving a large Medicaid population in Oregon, was selected based on its efforts to leverage a network of social service providers outside of the traditional boundaries of the health care system to improve the health of Medicaid patients. Commonwealth Care Alliance, Massachusetts care delivery system for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries with complex medical needs, is deploying financial incentives to engage some of its highest-need, but most difficult to reach patients. The Northeast Delta Human Services Authority, a quasi-governmental behavioral health care safety net provider in northeastern Louisiana, has developed an innovative integrated services network to provide integrated primary care and a range of social services to rural and low-income populations with behavioral health needs. The Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, which administers correctional facilities in Louisville, Kentucky, is designing a pay-for-success initiative to provide treatment to individuals with substance abuse disorders upon release from jail.

“Improving the care we deliver to vulnerable populations is critical to the viability of our health care system. Generating rigorous evidence of innovative programs is a key step in realizing this financial and moral imperative,” said Quentin Palfrey, Executive Director of J-PAL North America.

Read the full press release here and stay updated on our blog to learn more information about the competition winners.

The Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition is a part of J-PAL’s U.S. Health Care Delivery Initiative, which supports the randomized evaluations of strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health care in the United States. We’ll be hosting a fall conference to share the work of the initiative. Keep an eye on this blog, our Facebook page, and Twitter feed for more information.


Substance Abuse Roundtable

On Thursday, May 26, J-PAL North America hosted a Roundtable on Addiction, Treatment, and Prevention. Policymakers, researchers, and J-PAL staff gathered to discuss innovative approaches to curtailing substance abuse. The event connected policymakers and leading academic researchers to develop evidence-informed policies and rigorous evaluations of promising new approaches.

Quentin Palfrey, Executive Director of J-PAL North America, began the day by recognizing the widespread harm of substance abuse nationally. Palfrey noted that it is critical that researchers and policymakers work together to evaluate interventions and implement the most effective approaches:

“Health officials and public health leaders are innovating to tackle drug addiction across the United States, at the local and national levels, while researchers are eager to rigorously evaluate which approaches are best-suited to face this problem. Through collaboration, we can better understand how to address the challenges of substance abuse.”

Joseph Doyle (MIT Sloan School of Management) reviewed a selection of global and domestic health research by J-PAL affiliates, and discussed his ongoing research with Mireille Jacobson (UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business) and Padma Gulur (UC Irvine Health) on the health and financial impacts of involving pain specialists in the treatment of patients who already have significant previous exposure to opioids. Doyle noted that one in five patients admitted to the hospital is already receiving a high dosage of opioids.

Policymakers from Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina then presented several innovative approaches to addressing substance abuse, focusing on prevention and rehabilitation. These included leveraging telemedicine to expand the scope of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), providing MAT to addicted inmates upon release from prison, a school-based universal substance use screening program, a program to support primary doctors treat patients with chronic pain. The policymakers shared a commitment not only to developing innovative strategies for addressing substance abuse, but also to rigorously evaluating their impacts.

Next, the event turned to presentations of substance-abuse related research from economists and physicians. Leila Agha (Boston University Questrom School of Business) presented her research on technology and innovation in health care, and Mireille Jacobson discussed several studies, including her ongoing work with Joe Doyle and Padma Gulur.

Presentations by Jane Liebschutz (Boston Medical Center, Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health) and Roger Weiss (McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School) provided a medical perspective on strategies to address substance abuse. Dr. Liebschutz discussed her work on the Transforming Opioid Prescribing in Primary Care program (TOPCARE), which seeks to decrease misuse of and addiction to prescription opioids for patients with chronic pain. Dr. Liebschutz also described a checklist developed by Ariadne Labs (where she and Dr. Weiss are affiliate faculty) and the Center for Disease Control for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. Dr. Weiss discussed his work with the National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network (CTN), a partnership between academic research centers and community treatment programs (CTPs) to design and conduct multi-site clinical trials of drug abuse treatment in CTPs. Dr. Weiss also described the results of the Prescription Opioid Addiction Treatment Study, a randomized control trial that evaluated the impact of different lengths of buprenorphine-naloxone treatment and different intensities of individual drug counseling on patient outcomes.

Last, we heard from Katherine Klem, Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, on the potential value of Pay for Success contracts in financing innovative treatment and prevention interventions (see J-PAL’s evaluation of the Nurse-Family Partnership in South Carolina for an example of a PFS evaluation).


After these presentations, J-PAL staff facilitated small group conversations in which policymakers and researchers discussed prevention and treatment strategies in-depth and explored possibilities for rigorous evaluation of innovative approaches.

Opioids and heroin have received national attention as they’ve become a major challenge for jurisdictions across the country. Some participants emphasized the importance of developing solutions to drug abuse more broadly, both to treat addiction among racial and other demographic groups that primarily use drugs other than opioids, and to develop the infrastructure that will be necessary to manage drug crises in the future. Dr. Weiss made a related point:

“If this were 30 years ago, we would be talking about the cocaine epidemic. Epidemics shift. We can’t lose sight of the fact that opioids are different from most other drugs because a) the central role of MAT [medication assisted treatment] for OUDs [opioid use disorders], and b) they’re prescribed drugs. But some of the features of opioid use disorders are the same for other substance abuse disorders. It’s important that if the opioid epidemic fades in the next five years, we aren’t left with opioid-focused interventions that can’t address the next epidemic.”

The roundtable represented a promising step in a pioneering collaboration between academic researchers and policymakers on the pressing issue of substance abuse, and J-PAL North America hopes to continue working on this challenge in the future.

Webinar Posted: Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition

On Thursday, Katherine Baicker, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Jason Bauman, Manager of J-PAL’s U.S. Health Care Delivery Initiative hosted a webinar to share more information about the J-PAL Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition.

During the webinar, Kate shared an in-depth perspective on her work as a primary investigator on an evaluation of the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) in South Carolina. This evaluation of NFP requires a strong partnership between government officials, health care practitioners, and researchers. Jason provided additional examples of J-PAL evaluations that require comprehensive partnerships.

The Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition aims to support the design of randomized evaluations through flexible pilot funding, technical support, and the cultivation of such partnerships. Learn more about the competition and how to apply here.

You can watch a recording of the webinar below. If you have any questions about the competition, please reach out to Competition Manager Jason Bauman (

May 19 Webinar on the Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition

 J-PAL North America will be hosting a second webinar to further discuss the Health Care Delivery Competition on May 19 at 2:00 p.m. EST.

The competition will support U.S. federal, state, and local health agencies and other health care organizations in developing compelling and reliable evidence of innovative programs.

We will provide selected applicants with:

  1. Technical support in developing randomized evaluations to study innovative programs and answer important policy questions;
  2. $50,000 of flexible funding to help design and test the feasibility of these evaluations; and
  3. Partnerships with experienced researchers from J-PAL’s network to implement the evaluations.

Applicants that partner with a J-PAL-affiliated researcher to design a high-quality randomized evaluation can apply for additional funding, typically in the range of $150,000 to $400,000, through the HCDI Request for Proposals. Letters of Interest are due on June 17.

We encourage all potential applicants to attend the webinar, which will be hosted by Katherine Baicker, Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Jason Bauman, Manager of the U.S. Health Care Delivery Initiative. Katherine and Jason will describe the policy-relevant and practitioner-focused research partnerships that the competition aims to support. Katherine is currently a member of one such partnership, as she and a team of researchers and policymakers are measuring the impacts of an expansion of the Nurse-Family Partnership in South Carolina.

To RSVP for the webinar, please register at this link.

A recording of our first webinar is available here.


Health Care Delivery Initiative Spotlight: The Determinants of Health Insurance Enrollment and Plan Choice

J-PAL North America recently launched the Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition, which will support health agencies in developing reliable evidence about various programs. The competition is part of J-PAL North America’s Health Care Delivery Initiative (HCDI), which has already supported a number of evaluations about health care initiatives, including a randomized evaluation by Wesley Yin (UCLA) about enrollment in health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 with the goal of expanding insurance coverage and affordability. However, insurance enrollment rates have remained fairly low and many individuals are purchasing plans that are sub-optimal for their needs.

In an ongoing randomized evaluation, the researcher partnered with California’s health insurance marketplace, Covered California, in order to study the low enrollment and sub-optimal plan choice. The evaluation will estimate the impact of providing unenrolled individuals with information such as the benefits of purchasing a plan, eligible subsidies, financial penalties, and comparison of plans in terms of price and quality. The results of the study are forthcoming.

Visit the J-PAL North America website for the full evaluation summary as well as more information about the Health Care Delivery and Innovation Competition. Register for our webinar to be held on May 19, 2016, at 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm to learn more.

Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition Webinar Posted Online

The J-PAL Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition supports federal, state, and local government health agencies and other health care organizations in the United States in developing compelling and reliable evidence of innovative programs.

The competition supports the design and implementation of randomized evaluations of programs with the potential to serve as models for deploying health and social services to improve health outcomes and enhance the accessibility and affordability of quality health care.

On Friday, Amy Finkelstein, J-PAL North America’s co-Scientific Director and Ford Professor of Economics at MIT, and Quentin Palfrey, J-PAL North America’s Executive Director, hosted a webinar to share more information about the competition. Amy and Quentin described the motivation for the competition, the funding and technical support that will be available to selected applicants, and the characteristics of strong applications. They also discussed relevant randomized evaluations conducted by J-PAL-affiliated professors to date, as well as potentially promising, but not yet studied, programs and topics.

You can watch the webinar below. If you have any questions about the competition, please reach out to Competition Manager Jason Bauman (

Health Care Delivery Initiative Spotlight: Employee Wellness Programs

J-PAL North America has recently announced the Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition, which will support new research proposals about how to improve health care policy. The Health Care Delivery Initiative (HCDI) has already supported innovative health care research, including a randomized evaluation by J-PAL affiliate Katherine Baicker (Harvard) and Zirui Song (Harvard) about the benefits of employee wellness programs. Policymakers see employee wellness programs as a potential strategy to improve employee health outcomes and decrease health care costs, but evidence on their effectiveness is limited.

In an ongoing study, Baicker and Song are studying the impact of an employee wellness program at BJ’s Wholesale Club. The year-long wellness program includes team-based diet and exercise challenges, physical activity, nutrition counseling, and stress reduction. The researchers will compare BJ’s locations that were randomly assigned to the wellness program against a control group to see the impact of the program on employee health and well-being; worker absenteeism and turnover; and health care spending.

Visit the J-PAL North America website for the full evaluation summary as well as more information about the Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition. Register for our first webinar to be held on April 15, 2016, at 10:00 am – 11:00 am, and our second webinar to be held on May 19, 2016, at 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm.