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Pew improves policy, informs the public, and invigorates civic life

Improving Public Policy

Flooding swamps a church in Burgaw, North Carolina, in September 2018 after Hurricane Florence. The state’s new flood management plan will rely on nature-based solutions to help manage stormwater and mitigate damage.
Hilary Swift The New York Times/Redux

A flood resilience plan for North Carolina

North Carolina in June released its Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan to guide the state in addressing the impacts of climate change. The plan contains several Pew-backed recommendations aimed at reducing unsustainable development in flood-prone areas, such as urging state agencies to consider climate conditions before developing in high-risk areas. The plan also recommends that state agencies require or incentivize the use of nature-based solutions to manage stormwater and reduce flood damage. Pew’s flood-prepared communities project staff worked closely with state officials, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, and other stakeholders as part of its effort to expand nature-based solutions to prevent flooding. 

Nature-based jobs receive funding in Queensland

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced in July that AU$10 million would go to conservation and land management work in Great Barrier Reef water catchments to provide much-needed employment to help the region recover from the economic slowdown resulting from COVID-19. The funds will allow local organizations in some of the hardest-hit areas of Queensland to support up to 200 temporary nature-based jobs. Earlier this year Pew’s Outback to Oceans Australia project convened a national coalition of more than 70 conservation and farming organizations to make the case for economic stimulus in the conservation and land management sector, which the government credited with helping to develop the policy.  

New online help for New Jersey stormwater mitigation

In July, New Jersey Future, a nonprofit that advocates smart growth in densely populated areas, unveiled the Stormwater Utility Resource Center, a web resource that helps communities assess fees based on local properties’ impervious surface areas to help pay for upgraded stormwater systems and nature-based flood mitigation. The website provides best practices, step-by-step guidance, and sample ordinances and other technical assistance materials that local elected officials can use to implement a stormwater utility fee, a new authority granted to New Jersey cities following the passage of the Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act in March. Pew, which backed the legislation, provided support for the project, including staff who served on the advisory committee for the development of the website.

11th state adopts pension stress testing requirement

In June, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) signed legislation that requires stress testing of the state’s pension system. This analytical tool looks at various economic scenarios and investment returns to provide much better insight into potential long-term liabilities and costs. North Carolina is the 11th state to adopt a formal stress testing requirement, a trend expected to continue as state retirement systems implement new actuarial standards requiring regular assessment of investment, contribution, and other risks. Pew’s public sector retirement systems project provided technical assistance and, in 2019, produced a full stress test analysis of the state’s retirement system.

Dmitry Bayer Unsplash

Research reveals opportunities to expand antibiotic stewardship

Open Forum Infectious Diseases, an open-access, online medical journal, in August published results from a survey of primary care physicians’ perceptions of antibiotic resistance, inappropriate antibiotic use, and the need for antibiotic stewardship that was conducted by Pew and the American Medical Association. The survey results, as well as focus group research, highlight current barriers to adopting antibiotic stewardship in primary care settings, such as a physician’s inability to recognize inappropriate prescribing, and offer approaches for addressing these challenges and encouraging expansion of antibiotic stewardship in outpatient settings nationwide.

Informing the Public

Brianna Soukup Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Concern about climate change

The Pew Research Center published a report in June showing that a majority of Americans continue to say they see the effects of climate change in their own communities and believe that the federal government falls short in its efforts to reduce the impacts. The recent analysis found that 60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, the highest share taking this view in any Pew Research Center survey since 2009. The new national survey, conducted among 10,957 U.S. adults using the Center’s online American Trends Panel, finds about two-thirds (65%) of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, a view that’s about as widely held today as it was last fall.

Trust in the news media

The Pew Research Center in August released a report that capped a year-long exploration into factors related to trust in the news media. The study found that many Americans remain skeptical toward the news media, questioning not only the quality of journalists’ work but their intentions behind it. No more than half of U.S. adults have confidence in journalists to act in the best interests of the public or think that other Americans have confidence in the institution. The public is also more likely than not to say that news organizations do not care about the people they report on. And although most Americans (61%) expect the news they get to be accurate, nearly 7 in 10 (69%) think news organizations generally try to cover up mistakes when they happen. The reasons for why Americans think these mistakes happen underscore the distrust that substantial portions of the public feel: Many say that careless reporting (55%) or a desire to mislead the public (44%) are major factors behind significant mistakes in news stories, although other reasons such as the rapid pace of breaking news (53%) also are seen as responsible for mistakes. The study also found that although roughly two-thirds of Americans (63%) think it’s better for society if the public is skeptical of the news media, three-quarters of U.S. adults (75%) say it’s possible for the public to improve its level of confidence in the news media.

The role of religion, God, and prayer

In July, the Pew Research Center published a report with data from 34 nations on the role that religion, God, and prayer play in people’s lives. The study found that a median of 45% of people among the nations polled say a person must believe in God to live a moral life. But answers to the questions varied widely among regions. People in the emerging economies included in this survey tend to be more religious and more likely to consider religion to be important in their lives. They are also more likely than people in this survey who live in advanced economies to say that belief in God is necessary to be moral. Differences occur within countries as well. In general, people who are relatively nonreligious are more inclined than highly religious people in the same countries to say it is not necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. Despite variances in religious observance, a median of 62% across the countries surveyed say that religion plays an important role in their lives, while 61% agree that God plays an important role in their lives and 53% say the same about prayer. 

Invigorating Civic Life

Singer Mahalia Jackson performs in 1970. The impact that her gospel singing had on the civil rights movement is one of many subjects covered in the award-winning, four-part radio series “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul.”
David Redfern Getty Images

Radio documentary receives regional Murrow award

In May, WXPN’s radio documentary “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for best large-market radio news documentary from the Radio Television Digital News Association. Hosted by Grammy-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans, “Gospel Roots” explores the influence of African American gospel on early rock and R&B music and includes interviews with over 50 musicians and gospel historians as well as recordings of live gospel concerts. The four-hour documentary and six-part podcast were part of a larger project funded by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage that featured several major performances throughout Philadelphia. 

Arabic newspaper is Philadelphia’s first in more than a century

In May, artists and resettled people from Iraq and Syria published an Arabic-language newspaper, Philadelphia’s first in 118 years. The publication was an extension of a two-year project that brought together Iraqis and Syrians to create books and other artworks that express personal narratives of displacement, immigration, and sanctuary, culminating in a 2019 multisite exhibition. As the project concluded, participants decided to create a newspaper as a way of continuing their collaboration and community engagement. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage funded the project “Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary,” held at Swarthmore College. Philadelphia public radio station WHYY reported in July that 2,500 copies of the first issue of the Friends, Peace, Sanctuary Journal were distributed across the city.

A sign posted at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia warns how easily the Spanish flu spread. The 1918 photograph is included in the Mütter Museum’s exhibition “Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia.”
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command via AP Images

Online arts programming during the pandemic 

Projects supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage reached audiences virtually during closures due to COVID-19. The Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities at Haverford College hosted a studio visit and conversation with the Berlin-based artist collective Slavs and Tatars as part of “The Contest of the Fruits,” a project that included a film, a publication, and an array of public programs focusing on cultural heritage and identity. Participants from across the United States, Europe, Canada, and Asia joined Hurford’s online event. In addition, the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia launched a video tour of the exhibition “Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia,” receiving over 5,100 views in its first two weeks. The museum reopened to the public in July, with limited visitor capacity and advanced, timed tickets required. 

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States of Innovation

Robert Byes
Robert Byes
Article

Oregon State Retirement Program Growing During Pandemic

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Article

Oregon’s three-year-old state retirement savings program for private sector workers has continued to grow during the pandemic while providing a financial cushion for participants facing significant economic shocks, according to an analysis of state administrative data.

Trust Magazine

New Reforms for Over-the-Counter Drugs

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Trust Magazine

In a move designed to streamline regulation of overthe- counter drugs, Congress passed—and President Donald Trump signed—legislation in March that will allow the Food and Drug Administration to move more quickly to address safety concerns and permit manufacturers to more easily market new products.