ASPPH Shares Policy Priorities with Presidential Candidates
During the summer, ASPPH developed a 12-page white paper, Academic Public Health’s Priorities for America, intended to inform the Presidential candidates and their transition teams. The document focuses on advancing public health education, science, and practice as the basis of improving population health. ASPPH calls on the new Administration to make public health a national priority and advance the research, training, and other actions necessary to protect and promote health for all our citizens. The paper was authored by the ASPPH Legislative Committee, under the leadership of Dr. Howard Frumkin. Input from deans and primary representatives was included in the final document following extensive discussion at the Association’s Leadership Retreat in July. The final white paper was approved by the ASPPH Board. The paper offers four overarching policy priorities and scores of more specific policy recommendations.
Federal Funding Continues as Top Priority for ASPPH
ASPPH’s fiscal year 2017 funding priorities were established by the ASPPH Legislative Committee and shared with Congress during member and staff discussions with legislators and their staff throughout the year. The Association sent numerous standalone and coalition letters to key legislators in support of its legislative agenda. Numerous face-to-face meetings were held with Senators, Representatives, and staff during the Congressional Session. The Association sponsored a “Hill Day” in late February that engaged numerous deans and program directors as advocates.
In addition to the aggregate funding levels for the major research and workforce agencies (NIH, AHRQ, CDC, and HRSA), ASPPH’s advocacy agenda focused on specific programs within CDC and HRSA. Congress was unable to reach agreement on the fiscal year 2017 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. The agencies covered by the bill have operated since October 1 under a series of continuing resolutions (CRs). The current CR is scheduled to expire on April 18, 2017. Under the CR, all of ASPPH’s priority programs (CDC Prevention Research Centers, HRSA Public Health Training Centers, CDC NIOSH Agricultural Forestry and Fishing Centers, CDC NIOSH Education and Research Centers, and the CDC Centers for Public Health Preparedness) are funded at the same level as in FY 2016.
ASPPH Advances Prevention Research in the Cancer Moonshot
ASPPH organized a March 21 letter to Vice President Biden and Congressional leaders, signed by more than 70 deans and directors of schools and programs of public health expressing concern that the Cancer Moonshot initiative “may be undervaluing the vital role that public health and prevention have played and must continue to play in reducing cancer incidence and mortality.” The academic public health leaders wrote, “We urge you to pay careful attention to the balance between treatment and prevention-related investments. The development of new and innovative therapeutic cancer interventions is vital, but history has shown that the greatest impact in reducing cancer mortality rates has come from preventing cancers. While curative treatments often appear more exciting to the public, investments in public health and prevention research hold even more promise for both short- and long-term reductions in cancer incidence and mortality rates. Developing cancer cures is essential, but controlling cancer is also a policy and public health challenge. We must operate on both fronts.” The letter was later published in Lancet Oncology.
Subsequently, an NCI Blue Ribbon Panel was formed to make recommendations on how any new funding from the Moonshot initiative should be allocated. The panel’s final report included a set of prevention investment recommendations. On September 2, ASPPH wrote to the Vice President endorsing the Blue Ribbon panel’s report and highlighting the prevention recommendations. The report was subsequently accepted and endorsed by the Mr. Biden.
Population Health Initiatives Expand
Under the leadership of the ASPPH Population Health Leadership Group, ASPPH’s initiatives to promote population health continue to expand. A detailed survey of the membership was completed in September. A set of structured interviews with external stakeholders was completed in October. The results of these initiatives will be released in early 2017. Both initiatives were intended to identify existing capabilities and opportunities for academic public health to advance population health, as well as challenges that may be hindering needed collaborations.
- Throughout the year, ASPPH was an active member of the informal Zika coalition, led by the March of Dimes. The Association lobbied actively for the Zika supplemental funding request of the Administration.
- ASPPH joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in favor of the University of Texas, Austin’s position in support of holistic admissions policies. In a June decision, the Supreme Court upheld the Association’s position in one of the most important affirmative action cases in years.
- May 6: ASPPH wrote to key FDA leaders in support of the FDA’s final regulations that placed E-cigarettes and other new tobacco products under federal oversight for the first time. ASPPH Chair Dean Gary Raskob wrote, “While the arduous and lengthy regulatory process has been frustrating, we are very pleased that the final rule gives paramount consideration to the health of the public and not the commercial interests of manufacturers and vendors. The members of ASPPH appreciate your strong support of the final rule, which we believe will reduce the impact and suffering caused by the use of tobacco products.” ASPPH also wrote to Hill leaders opposing efforts to legislatively overturn the FDA regulations.
- June 20: ASPPH wrote to key House and Senate appropriators, urging them “to oppose any efforts to reduce, eliminate, or condition CDC funding related to gun violence prevention research or critical public health surveillance on violent deaths.” ASPPH said that the current legislative language barring any research that would “advocate or promote gun control” is “inhibiting research freedom and, perhaps inadvertently, restricting research that is in the national interest.” ASPPH urged Congress to “explicitly fund this important research.”
- October 20: ASPPH hosted a webinar with Dr. Lisa M. Lee, executive director of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. She reviewed the Commission’s activities and the resources that are making available to public health professionals.
- November 30: ASPPH submitted testimony to the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee in support of the mission and processes of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
- November 29: ASPPH wrote to the House Rules Committee opposing using scheduled increases in the Prevention and Public Health Fund to pay for program increases included in the 21st Century Cures Act.
- December 6: ASPPH sponsored a webinar on the election’s impact on academic public health. Guest speakers were former Congressman Henry Waxman and for HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr.