By Dr. Doug Laube

Ten years ago, the Centers for Disease Control listed the top 10 achievements of public health in the 20th century -- among them, family planning, control of infectious disease, and vaccinations. These achievements vastly improved our quality of life, resulting in an increase in life expectancy, worldwide reduction in infant and child mortality, and the elimination or reduction of many communicable diseases.

Following President Obama’s historic address to the nation, America is poised for the first dramatic public health achievement of the 21st century.

What makes this moment truly life-changing in every sense of the word is that, for the first time, more women and their families will have coverage than ever before in our nation’s history.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nonprofits are Good for New Mexico

By Ona Porter

Following the close of the 2008 legislative session, and in preparation for a special legislative session on health care, New Mexico Youth Organized (NMYO) and Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) distributed mailers to the constituents of six legislators. The mailers informed constituents about how their legislators were voting on critical issues and provided information about the source of contributions their legislators were receiving from special interests. Believing this to be political campaign intervention, Secretary Mary Herrera, acting on the advice of Attorney General Gary King, ordered the nonprofits to register as political action committees (PACs). A lawsuit disputing the claim quickly followed.

Recently, Judge Judith Herrera issued an important federal court decision in this closely watched case. In her decision, Judge Herrera sided with decades of legal precedent, and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Free speech is a value that all of us hold sacred. The implications of having nonprofits, whose primary purpose is not the election or defeat of candidates, register as PACs for simply speaking out about an issue are chilling. If nonprofits were forced to register as PACs, it would severely restrict the ability of thousands of organizations across New Mexico to serve their communities. Perhaps most importantly, it would leave critical voices unheard.

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By Matt Sundeen

There's a story going around that's so scary it ought to be told only in a whisper:

If Colorado tries to untangle the conflicts in its budget, it will end up like...California.

No self-respecting state would want that. The massive budget cuts, the IOUs, the celebrity governor autographing government-surplus sale items...yikes! Just the thought makes your blood curdle.

The "change makes us California" story is intended to scare us, but like many good tales, it's blatantly untrue. Budget reforms will not transform us into the Golden State. Almost the opposite is true. In many ways, Colorado is already like California, and if we don't change, more California-type problems are likely.

Opponents of budget reform have peddled the Colorado-to-California scare tactic for years. This summer, the Independence Institute's Barry Poulson repeated it to Colorado's Long-term Fiscal Stability Commission. Speaking about Colorado's ongoing reform efforts, Poulson warned that "if these trends continue, the outcome in Colorado will be similar to that in California."

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By Hector Garcia

The financial, economic and environmental crises are alarm signals to the world, and particularly to us in the U.S. Acting on the basis of a fragmented worldview while globalization magnified and quickened that worldview’s effects, we rushed into unsustainable and destructive practices. On the other hand, we now have an opportunity to build the foundation for an American Renaissance. Extrapolating from Peter Senge’s learning organizations, “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire,” the U.S. can shift to a paradigm of a learning global nation.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

KRWG - Newsmakers in Las Cruces, New Mexico recently aired a program about the multitudes of doctors that are speaking out about healthcare reform. They interviewed New Mexico Editorial Forum author Dr. Sandra Penn, who recently penned an op-ed "Stop Negotiating Away the Public Health Insurance Model" about her views that Congress is letting real reform slip away. You can see her interview for yourself, which occurs at the 5 minute mark.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Rose for Sister Mary

By Erik Camayd-Freixas

When the Iowa Department of Human Rights awarded the 2009 Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice to Sister Mary McCauley for her defense of community after the Postville raid, she humbly said: “It is our duty to work for equality and justice.”

These are just the latest of this brave woman’s history-bound words in a ministry that started the day of the raid, May 12, 2008, when she summoned Father Paul Ouderkirk out of retirement with a phone call: “Father, we need a collar down here.” Ever since, she has been a pillar of strength and inspiration to many in Postville and across the country.

When I was inside Waterloo’s National Cattle Congress, interpreting the misguided prosecutions and watching authorities sworn to uphold the Constitution deny it to 389 ragged workers in chains and tears, I was reminded of Orwell’s Animal Farm: All are equal under the law, “but some are more equal than others.” I was dumbfounded, confused, and afraid, with no one to turn to for guidance on equality and justice. That is when I found Sister Mary.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Ed Smeloff and Scott Denman

Too much heat and too little light are being generated right now inside the Washington, DC Beltway on the issue of global warming. Some electric utilities and allies in the coal and nuclear industries claim that only coal or nuclear reactors can meet future energy needs and combat global climate change. They say there is no other way.

However, beyond the Beltway there is clear evidence that there is another way. There is a prosperous new direction -- without using more polluting coal or building more expensive, dangerous nuclear reactors.

This “third way” takes advantage of America’s vast -- and easily recovered -- energy efficiency ‘reserves’ and dramatically expands reliance on a wealth-creating mix of advanced and renewable energy technologies.

Quietly, but steadily, one major U.S. utility, California’s Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), has spent the last 20 years demonstrating that this “third way” powers economic growth, is easier on the family pocketbook, and slashes air pollution.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Marsha Meeks Kelly

In another life, I was a public school teacher. English, math and eventually “Skills for Adolescence” were the subjects that consumed my days along with an average of 140 seventh graders.

Every day I worked hard to meet the needs of my students in “inner-city” public schools in Mississippi. I remember the tears of the student who came to me to discuss her pregnancy and how she was going to tell her parents and whether she should get married at 13 years of age.

That year we started a “Peer Ears” program, a peer counseling program, and the next year we started survival skills classes called “Skills for Adolescence.” Too many pregnancies and too many sexually-transmitted diseases forced our school district to incorporate classes to educate our students about their life decisions.

Reading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on the sexual and reproductive health of young people was depressing. So little progress has been made here! Twenty years ago several concerned Mississippians formed a statewide coalition to work with the legislature to ensure a comprehensive K-12 health education curriculum, but we still do not have even a pilot program offering students sex education, despite attempts to institute such a program in the 2009 legislative session.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Maureen P. Corry, MPH

“I don’t need maternity care.” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) lobbed this comment against Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) efforts to guarantee maternity coverage as a basic benefit in health care reform. “Your mom probably did,” Stabenow famously shot back. That exchange and the wave of support that followed for Stabenow’s proposals illustrates how out of step Kyl is with a huge majority of Americans, including those in his own party.

Voters across the political spectrum are almost universal in their support for making maternity care an essential health insurance benefit through health care reform, according to a new poll conducted by Mark Mellman and commissioned by the Communications Consortium Media Center and the Women Donors Network. Fully 86 percent of voters strongly support a guaranteed maternity care benefit, and 95 percent believe that women should have the right to decide when to have a child, where to give birth and the health care provider who will attend their birth.

At Childbirth Connection, a 91-year-old national organization advocating high quality, evidence-based maternity care, we are not surprised by these results. We’ve known for years that rapid gains in the quality, value and cost of maternity care are well within reach. Health care reform is our opportunity to ensure that all women and babies get higher quality care with better results, and savings from following best practices can be put toward providing coverage for all.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Cathy Raphael

As a midwife in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, my great-great-grandmother Hannah Sandusky brought many healthy children into the world despite the high maternal and infant mortality rates of the time.

I can’t help but wonder what “Bubbe” Hannah – as she was known to all – would make of the fact that today, some 150 years later, the U.S. ranks 42nd globally in maternal mortality rates, the highest among industrialized countries. Maternal mortality is a key indicator of health worldwide and reflects the ability of women to secure not only pregnancy-related services but also other health care services.

What Bubbe Hannah no doubt knew in 1909 surely remains true in 2009: healthy women have healthy babies.

The pending reform of the American health care system recognizes this simple equation, creating -- for the first time ever -- a seamless, lifelong continuum of care for women.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Christopher Mattera

Hard economic times have spurred an explosion in home gardens with more people realizing that food does not begin and end in the supermarket. This increase in food awareness, coupled with recent food recalls, has brought increased attention to issues of food safety and farm policy.

Unfortunately, recent proposals fail to take into account the issues underpinning the food safety problems faced by this country.

Congress is seeking to enhance federal oversight of the production of food, thereby increasing food safety. To that end, all food producers would be subject to the same stringent regulations, regardless of their size. The local farmer and his organic or all-natural tomatoes will be treated with the same suspicion as produce from massive industrial “farms” which grow and process enormous amounts of food at unnaturally high rates, bolstered by synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified seed.

Similarly, small ranches where cattle graze on open fields of grass and are slaughtered one or two at a time in local abattoirs would be subject to the same requirements as the giant meat packing companies whose relentless “protein” production requires that they pump their cattle full of growth hormones and steroids, and dose them with antibiotics to combat the dangerous effects of a grain-based diet on the stomachs of animals designed to eat grasses.

The push for food safety ignores the real and important differences between modes of production.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Jason Marks

Year in and year out, healthcare costs go up faster than the rate of inflation. This year, we will spend more than $2.5 trillion on healthcare in the U.S., which is over $8,100 per person. Even at that, more than 35 million of our fellow citizens are left without regular healthcare coverage through insurance or a government program.

Health insurers serve as a convenient target, getting criticized for denying care to those that need it most, creating too much red-tape for doctors and other providers, and for diverting too much of our insurance dollars to administrative overhead, profits, executive compensation, and lobbying. But since most insurers pay out 75 to 85 percent of premium dollars in medical reimbursements, the direct savings from taking them entirely out of the system is no more than 25 percent.

If like me, you are concerned not just with the availability and quality of healthcare, but also its affordability, then it is important to understand that we have to look beyond insurance reform and coverage mandates. We must also look also at our healthcare industries, by which I mean doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and so forth. Most importantly, we have to look at -- and fundamentally change -- the current dynamic in which employers, insurers, healthcare providers, and last (and sometimes least) patients come together to deliver and pay for our medical care.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Lynn Evans

The latest polls on health care reform find that most Americans support it, but they are also confused about what is in the proposals currently being worked on by Congress. No wonder. The amount of misinformation floating around is enough to confuse a rocket scientist.

If the American public is feeling left out of the debate on health care reform, it just might have something to do with the $1.4 million per day being spent on lobbying this single issue by the drug, health insurance and other health-related industries. In addition, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the health care industry has given members of Congress nearly $24 million in campaign contributions this year, on top of the $170 million they gave during the last election.

The drug manufacturers’ trade association, known as PHARMA, has spent more than $92 million lobbying Congress this year and is about to roll out a $150 million ad campaign to cut the discounts on drug products that are being planned to help reduce spiraling health care costs. Having enjoyed the largess of the Bush years, these companies are willing to spend big to keep their profits flowing.

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By Harry J. Heiman, MD, MPH

As our country's debate about health care reform gets lost in the obfuscation of partisan politics, I am thankful that Grady Health System is struggling to take care of its dialysis patients.

Don't misunderstand. I feel sorry for the dedicated leadership of Grady and its board, who, after decades of having nonpaying patients dumped on them by every other health system in town, is thoughtfully trying to find treatment alternatives for their patients.

But Grady, and its financial inability to continue providing life-sustaining treatment to its patients, epitomizes the failure of our current health system.

Inherent to reforming our health system is answering questions about who we are as a country and what are our values.

More specifically, do we as a country believe in health equity -- that everyone who lives in America has the right to health and access to health care? The inalienable rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" included in the Declaration of Independence would seem to include health. It is, after all, hard to live and be happy if you don't have access to opportunities for health.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Tony Fransetta

Access to health care for all seniors is important. Having a Medicare system that works? Crucial.

As we age, visits to doctors’ offices increase. Before President Johnson signed Medicare into law 44 years ago, many seniors lacked health care because of the cost. Imagine! But now, through Medicare, our federal government provides a valuable program for seniors and people with disabilities to improve their medical well-being. Coverage has helped reduce senior poverty by two-thirds.

Since 2003 and the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act, Medicare Advantage plans (code for private insurance companies) have taken a toll on traditional Medicare. These Medicare Advantage plans are reimbursed at a higher rate than traditional Medicare, sometimes as much as 17 percent higher. This cost is being paid out of the traditional Medicare fund and is a strain on the Medicare budget. Passage of health-care reform will reduce this overpayment to private insurance companies, thereby easing any burden on working families' tax dollars.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Donna P. Hall

A massive, historic and overwhelmingly positive change for women’s lives is coming our way, in the form of the health care proposals now being considered in the House and Senate.

While television networks and newspapers were recently full of commentary and reporting on Rep. Joe Wilson’s loud outburst, the quiet fact remains that when health care reform passes, more women and their families will have coverage than ever before in our nation’s history.

That is no small thing, in a country where an estimated 21 million women lack health insurance, where over half of all medical bankruptcies are filed by female-headed households, and where single mothers and young women dominate the ranks of the uninsured.

The pending reform of the American health care system will -- for the first time ever -- create a seamless, lifelong continuum of care for women, for whom the status quo health care system has been an abject failure.

Click here to read the full Op-ed


By Margery Engel Loeb and Camille D. Miller

Texas is home to world-class medical schools and institutions that are known far and wide for their state-of-the-art treatment and expertise. However, many Texans, and especially Texas women, do not have easy access to this remarkable resource.

Some of the health care reforms, now being considered in Congress, hold the key that will open the door. We can look forward to a world in which more women and their families have coverage than at any time in our nation’s history. In Texas, there has long been bipartisan, grassroots support for health care for women and children.

For Texas women, and the 21 million women across our nation without health insurance, that will be a truly life changing -- and in many cases, lifesaving -- moment.

Imagine a system in which, for the first time ever, women won’t be charged up to 45 percent more than men for identical coverage, and maternity and reproductive health will be part of a basic care package.

The reforms will also include coverage of important preventative tests like mammograms. And they will put a stop to the shameful practice of denying health coverage because of “pre-existing medical conditions” such as breast cancer and pregnancy, or evidence of “uninsurability” such as being a victim of domestic violence.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Emilie C. Ailts

Access to abortion is being used to hijack legitimate debate about the scope and type of health care reform.

While it’s true that abortion is a complex issue that brings out strong emotions from all ends of the spectrum, it’s important to remember that abortion is just one aspect of the full range of reproductive health care services a woman may seek throughout her lifetime. This headline-grabbing focus on the “a-word” means opportunities to use health care reform to increase access to and use of other vital reproductive services could be lost to political gamesmanship.

Take, for example, gaps for those women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term. In 2007, the National Women's Law Center ranked Colorado 42nd overall when it came to women receiving adequate prenatal care. Research has tied inadequate prenatal care to premature and low-weight births -- which in turn can lead to children exhibiting behavioral and developmental problems.

How can health care reform address this gap? We know that some insurance companies consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition -- grounds to deny coverage. In addition, rates for some insurance plans are based on gender; as a result, women get charged more for the same coverage as men their age even though pregnancy usually isn’t covered in these plans. Because of these practices, women face financial hurdles in obtaining the prenatal care they need to have a healthy pregnancy and to deliver a healthy baby. There’s clearly room for improvement in just those aspects of the health care system.

Click here to read the full Op-ed

By Ginny McNulty

Kids returning to school might find their lessons haven’t changed all that much from last year. That includes their school-sponsored sex education classes. Even though last spring President Obama ended federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs -- many of which were proven ineffective in delaying sexual activity – not much has changed yet in Georgia.

During the last school year, I spoke at numerous presentations at my high school to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. I was repeatedly shocked at how little my fellow classmates knew about HIV/AIDS. I was asked on more than one occasion if HIV is transmitted by simple skin to skin contact. Before doing the presentations, I assumed that the students would know the majority of the information I was giving them. I was wrong.

Students repeatedly asked me about the effectiveness of condoms as protection against HIV infection. Unfortunately, I was unable to answer these curious students because school policy prohibited it. My school employed an abstinence-only policy, which extremely hindered me in giving potentially life-saving information to my classmates. On one occasion, one student confronted me during my presentation when I talked about abstinence and not about condoms. It was difficult for me to continue doing presentations after that incident because I whole heartedly agreed with him.

Click here to read the full Op-ed