Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation The Transparency Policy Project


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A Look at the Effectiveness of Menu Labeling

July 2016

Rui Zhang, Transparency Policy Project research assistant, takes and in-depth look at menu labeling. She finds that labeling induces restaurants to add healthier options, but the impact on consumers' choices is less clear. Some studies indicate a moderate effect in curbing the number of calories purchased, others find limited or no effect. Zhang also discusses ways to make menu labeling more effective, such as using exercise-equivalent labels or using colors like green, yellow and red to distinguish low and high calorie foods. Read her Harvard Ash Center's Challenges to Democracy blog post. 

Our Testimony on OSHA's Injuries and Illnesses Transparency Rule

June 2016

In May, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final rule requiring workplaces with more than 250 employees and smaller establishments in high-risk industries to electronically report injuries and illnesses to OSHA. Some of the data will be shared with the public on OSHA's website to trigger safety improvements and inform workers, administrators and the general public. Elena Fagotto, TPP's Director of Research, submitted a written testimony to the House's Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing discussing the rule's impact on workers and employers. The testimony explains how shedding light on injuries and illnesses could make American workplaces safer by stimulating competition and mutual learning within the industry and by helping OSHA target its resources. Read the testimony


Transparency for Safer Workplaces

May 2016

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) bets on transparency to improve workplace safety. OSHA has issued a final rule requiring certain employers in risky industries to electronically submit injury and illness data. Employers are already collecting this information, but OSHA will now make some of it publicly available in an effort to encourage employers to make workplaces safer. OSHA believes that transparency will trigger a race to the top among employers to compete on safety. OSHA will use the data to target its enforcement resources and improve compliance. But also workers, job seekers, customers, journalists, and the general public will be able to use the information to evaluate workplace safety. The new information will allow researchers to identify emerging risks and trends in risk reduction in the industry. The rule also contains anti-retaliation protections and prohibits employers from discouraging workers from reporting an injury or illness. Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, commented:  "Our new rule will nudge employers to prevent work injuries to show investors, job seekers, customers and the public they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target compliance assistance and enforcement resources, and enable 'big data' researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.” The new rule becomes effective January 1, 2017 and the reporting requirements will be phased in over two years. Read a fact sheet on the rule. Read the rule.


Health Affairs Examines Patients' Use of Transparency and Evidence

May 2016

In its April 2016 issue, Health Affairs examines whether and how patients and consumers use information to choose providers and to play a more active role in decisions about their health. The special issue reports that too often the jargon used and the information disclosed is more relevant to providers and health care systems than to patients. But the issue also identifies promising cases, from Yelp hospital reviews to customized nursing home ratings, where information may help patients make better health care choices. 

Health Affairs Focuses on Food and Health

May 2016

In its November 2015 special issue, Health Affairs focuses on the complex relationship between food and health. The articles in the issue examine the public's understanding of the impact of dietary choices on health and discuss several policy options introduced to improve Americans' diets, including menu labeling. Research on menu labeling points to a reduction in calories of menu items at restaurants displaying calorie information, but questions the impact of labeling on the dietary choices of restaurant goers.

First Do No Harm: Best Practices for Patient Safety

February 2016

Journalist David Bornstein explores medical errors, and the most promising solutions to this urgent problem, in two articles for the New York Times Fixes blog. The first article discusses how networks of hospitals are working together to share best practices and learn from each other the most successful strategies to improve patient safety. The second one presents concrete solutions adopted by certain hospitals to reduce harm to patients, from new screening procedures to reduce blood clots and sepsis, to creating "a culture of learning, transparency and improvement" in medical organizations.