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Statement From Assistant Secretary For Health Dr. Howard Koh on The Death Of Former HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary For Health Research, Statistics And Technology, Dr. Ruth Hanft

August 30, 2011

I was saddened to hear of the death of former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Research, Statistics and Technology, Dr. Ruth Hanft. With her passing, the nation has lost a great public health leader who colleagues remember as a pioneer in improving the use of data in health policymaking and who "paved the way for health services researchers interested in leading health policy issues of the day."

Dr. Hanft led a distinguished career in health policy, management, financing and cost-containment, and manpower and technology assessment. She will be remembered for her many important contributions in these and other health and welfare focus areas as they came to the forefront of public concern and during the creation of HHS as a separate Cabinet-level department, from Education, in 1980.

At the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) - the predecessor agency to HHS - she was instrumental in developing the first neighborhood health center projects. As chief of evaluation for the Office of Health Affairs at the Office of Economic Opportunity - the agency responsible for administering many of the War on Poverty programs created as part President Johnson's Great Society legislative agenda - she conducted the first evaluation of the then new Community Health Centers program, which today serves more than 20 million Americans. She served at HHS as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Policy, Research, Statistics and Technology, from 1977-1981.

During her many years in government, Dr. Hanft also led the first ever national studies of health care expenditures, at the Social Security Administration, and served at the agency as director of the Task Force on National Health Insurance and as Deputy Staff Director for Medicaid Programs and related programs.

Outside of her federal service, she continued her ground-breaking research work with major contributions in Medicare, Medicaid and medical education research while a staff director and elected member at the Institute of Medicine.She also authored numerous books and seminal academic articles on topics of health manpower, health insurance, health care financing, health care technology assessment and innovation. In her many academic roles and appointments, she was widely respected by students and faculty.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all who were touched by Ruth's contributions as a teacher, colleague and visionary, and especially with Ruth's husband of 60 years, Herbert, her son, Jonathan, daughter, Marjorie, granddaughters, extended family, and the many others affected by her passing. Friends describe her as an "inspiration and role model for aging with energy, spirit and vitality" and an "extraordinary, vibrant, gifted person" who "embodied a unique blend of principled caring with effective activism." We know her vital contributions and public health legacy will live on and continue to improve the lives of millions of Americans for generations to come.

 

Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Secretary for Health, Health and Human Services