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Iglehart Stepping Down as Editor of <em>Health Affairs</em>

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

June 4, 2007 -- John K. Iglehart is stepping down September 4 as the editor of Health Affairs, the journal he founded 25 years ago to bring the work of academia to the attention of the healthy policy community broadly and to Congress in particular.

Succeeding the 67-year-old Iglehart as editor of Health Affairs is James C. Robinson, a contributing editor and a professor of health economics at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Public Health.

"I look forward to sustaining the journal's longstanding interests in topics such as health insurance and delivery of care, and also to continuing to increase the journal's presence in areas like global health and biomedical innovation and technology," Robinson said in a press release issued by Project Hope, the publisher of Health Affairs. Robinson said he plans to supplement the journal's bimonthly print edition with more Web-based publications, blogs, and online interviews.

Iglehart is much admired in the health policy community for a sharp intellect, a journalist's to-the-point manner of expression, and a friendly down-to-earth manner that allowed him to move easily between the worlds of academia, journalism, and Capitol Hill.

Among the lesser-known aspects of Iglehart's career, which prior to Health Affairs included a 10-year stint at the National Journal and writing assignments for the New England Journal of Medicine, is that he served as a lobbyist between 1979 and 1981 for the large national HMO operator, Kaiser Permanente.

But Iglehart's career is best known for bringing the views of academia, not business, to the attention of members of Congress and their aides. "He built the journal into the dominant place where health policy makers look for research and analysis that is relevant to the issues they are dealing with," said Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change.

"John's publishing it is what got it in front of people on Capitol Hill," said W. David Helms, president of AcademyHealth, an organization of health services researchers.

Iglehart said he saw the need for a journal such as Health Affairs because health policy academics all too often were writing for themselves. "I was struck by the fact that there were so many smart people writing about health policy issues that weren't really reaching important audiences like the broad health policy community and the media," Iglehart said in a telephone interview. "They were really writing for their peers."

Contributors to Health Affairs frequently appear as witnesses at congressional hearings and policy proposals and analysis published in the journal often shape legislation.

Iglehart said the "challenge of publishing a journal like this—because we accept no advertising—is that the economics don't work out." Subscription revenues cover only one-third of its expenses and the rest comes from foundations, he said.

Iglehart said the journal hasn't accepted advertising not because he was philosophically opposed but because advertisers primarily would have been publishers of academic books. That wouldn't have provided large revenues, he said, adding that foundations would have pulled the plug on their funding, figuring Health Affairs had gone commercial.

Although he is giving up management of the journal, Iglehart will remain as editor emeritus and said he really isn't looking to cut back his schedule, "other than a long weekend here and there." He said he'll continue to write for the New England Journal of Medicine and to chair the Health Reporters' Breakfast, a periodic roundtable in which the press grills key members of Congress and administration officials.

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