Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration and Public Health Sciences at the University of Chicago and a nonresident Fellow of the Century Foundation.

Recent Articles


By Harold Pollack It’s a pleasure to guest again. I am a public health researcher at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, where I am faculty chair of the Center for Health Administration Studies. The Obama team has been rightly tight-lipped about the internal mechanics of its campaign victory. I hope the big shorts forgive me one war story. I say “war story,” advisedly; imagine Studs Terkel covering the Normandy invasion by interviewing the guy in the back room distributing candy bars and post-it notes. I like this story because it involves me, but also because it provides one window into how healthcare became central to the campaign. I performed odd jobs in the spring, summer, and fall. Professor Paula Lantz and I co-chaired a volunteer advisory public health group that assisted the Obama campaign. April 15, we got a hush-hush email asking to help with something. I figured they wanted a 45-minute sit-down with the Candidate so I could broker a...

Lessons From the ER

Navigating a family health emergency, one policy expert learns it's not just doctors who make mistakes--systems can make them worse.

I held my wife Veronica's hand as the technician applied cool gel to her chest. At first, the ultrasound images were the fuzzy black-and-whites I remembered from before our daughters Rebecca and Hannah were born. After a few touches to the LCD screen, a breathtaking three-dimensional movie began to run. It featured Veronica's heart, its thick walls beating yellow against a black background. The technician maneuvered a trackball to reveal the various parts undulating in unison. Colored regions displayed blood velocity and turbulence through the different chambers. Suspended in virtual space, Veronica's heart looked every millimeter the impregnable pump I had always assumed it was. Veronica is 46, does four hard workouts every week on the stepping machine, eats sensibly, and has a resting pulse of 60. So when she woke me at 2 A.M. and calmly reported funny chest pains radiating to her shoulder blades and down her arms, the obvious came to mind, but it was hard to really believe...


by Harold Pollack Great producer and impresario Jerry Wexler passed away today. Along with Ahmet Ertegun, Tom Dowd, and others, Wexler was a great behind-the-scenes forces in rhythm and blues—a term he himself coined, along with the delightful follow-on “immaculate funk.” The Times has a terrific obituary today. As recounted there, the filmmaker Tom Thurman asked Wexler, “ ‘What do you want written on your tombstone, Jerry?’ He said, ‘Two words: More bass.’ ”


by Harold Pollack This month's Atlantic has a great James Fallows analysis of campaign debates. Buried deep is a compilation prepared by Sidney Blumenthal and Daniel Freifeld for the Clinton campaign, in which they examined reporters’ questions in 15 debates. As they summarize it: 352 QUESTIONS 29 GOTCHA QUESTIONS 33 PUFF QUESTIONS 7 GOVERNANCE QUESTIONS NOT A SINGLE QUESTION ABOUT A FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OR AGENCY AND ITS CONDITION UNDER BUSH That list is a stunning indictment of Brian Williams, Charles Gibson, the late Tim Russert, and others. It’s also old news to anyone who follows American politics or American government....


by Harold Pollack Journalists and professors share one great perk: the opportunity to travel. Not too long ago, I found myself in Paris, strolling the most beautiful city in the world. I’m still awed by the usual tourist things. I gawked at a 7-foot North African traffic policeman in white gloves and full decorative dress. I smiled at the stylish Parisians and American college kids deep in café conversation around the Louvre. Then I entered the Marais, Paris's old Jewish district. Downing a tourist-trap "Yiddish sandwich," I passed a synagogue that was dynamited on Yom Kippur, 1940 and later rebuilt. Outside a local elementary school, I listened to the joyful noise of children’s lunch play as I read a chilling plaque: On this spot, 165 children were deported by the Germans with the assistance of French police. The nearby Tomb of the Unknown Jewish Martyrs, France’s Holocaust memorial, frankly described the widespread anti-Semitism in French life and the role of French police in...