Advocacy and Policy
ASPPH Primary Representatives and Section Members receive the weekly ASPPH Policy and Advocacy Newsletter with the latest news about legislative, regulatory, and policy developments affecting academic public health. The following are some selected excerpts from recent newsletters highlighting ASPPH initiatives.
ASPPH Objects to Federal Hiring Freeze; Promised Public Health Exemption Missing in Final Trump Order
On January 23, the Trump Administration issued a presidential memorandum imposing a federal hiring freeze. Trump’s “Contract with the American Voter,” issued during the campaign last summer, promised, “a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce the federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health)” (emphasis added). The public health exemption was missing in the presidential memorandum issued on the third day of the Trump Administration.
In a letter to President Trump on January 31, ASPPH asked the President to uphold his “campaign promise and to exempt vital public health workers from the Federal hiring ban. Key federal agencies cannot wait until the next domestic or global health security challenge to begin the hiring process. Having a cadre of highly trained federal workers ready to address public health threats is vital.”
The letter asked President Trump to clarify that the order does not apply to agency fellows, interns, and residents in the various health professions, including public health. While ASPPH fellows appear safe, there is some uncertainty about the status of other fellows and interns paid directly from agency funds.
Ms. Colleen Barros, Acting Deputy Secretary of HHS, issued a memo on February 6 to the heads of HHS offices and agencies concerning exemptions to the federal hiring freeze. The memo from Ms. Barros listed 78 occupations that have been judged to fall within the parameters of public safety and national security and are thus exempt from the hiring freeze. Included in the positions are social work, social services aid and assistant, microbiologist, toxicologist, environmental health and safety, epidemiologist, dietician and nutritionist, and industrial hygiene. Seven other positions were listed as needing preapproval, “Due to the broad nature of work performed within these positions…” Among those occupations are: social science (behavioral and mental health), health scientist administrator, and public health advisor.
ASPPH Calls on President Trump to Withdraw Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees
In a letter to President Trump on January 31, ASPPH called for the repeal of his controversial Executive Order on refugees and immigration. ASPPH wrote to the President, “The Association urges you to withdraw the Executive Order on refugees and immigration. The Cato Institute reports that not a single person in America was killed in a terrorist incident by citizens from any of the seven countries specifically targeted by your Order. Public health schools and programs provide training for many students from these countries, most of whom return to provide essential services to their fellow citizens. Our schools and programs also employ faculty that come from the listed nations and encourage the exchange of scholars with these countries. The global health security challenges facing these countries as well as the United States respect no borders and the generation of new knowledge needed to fight these scourges is a shared responsibility of the global community. The health of the United States is best ensured through collaboration with the global community of scholars, not through the isolation of individuals due to their religion or country of origin.”
ASPPH also joined a group letter, organized by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which expressed deep concern “that the January 27 executive order restricting the admission of certain foreign nationals and refugees to the United States will disrupt patient care, health education, and medical research.”
30th Anniversary of the CDC Prevention Research Centers Program Celebrated
A special supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine celebrating the 30th anniversary of the CDC’s Prevention Research Center program was posted last week. It includes an article co-authored by Dr. Gary Raskob, chair of the ASPPH board, and Dr. Daniel Blumenthal, president of the American College of Preventive Medicine, titled, “The Value of Prevention Research Centers: Breaking New Ground in Prevention Research.”
Other Advocacy and Policy Activities
- January 9: ASPPH joined more than 300 other organizations in writing Congress last week “to warn of the dire consequences of repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund (the Prevention Fund), authorized under the Affordable Care Act.” The letter said, “Repealing the Prevention Fund without a corresponding increase in the allocation for the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill would leave a funding gap for essential public health programs, and could also foretell deep cuts for other critical programs funded in the bill.” More than 12 percent of the CDC budget is supplied by the Prevention Fund. The letter was organized by the Trust for America’s Health.
- February 7: ASPPH joined with hundreds of other organizations representing families, providers, researchers, patients, and consumers, in writing Donald Trump “to express our unequivocal support for the safety of vaccines.” The letter provides pages of references to scientific studies backing up the letter’s claims.
- February 7: ASPPH joined more than 260 patient, medical, scientific, academic, and research organizations in sending a letter to Donald Trump and the Congressional leadership, urging the completion of an FY 2017 spending package that includes $34.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- February 10: ASPPH joined with dozens of other organizations last week in writing to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees urging them to provide sufficient funding in upcoming appropriations bills to continue the aggressive efforts to develop a Zika vaccine, undertake robust prevention activities, and to assist victims of the disease. ASPPH is a member of an informal coalition on responding to the Zika threat. The coalition is led by the March of Dimes.
- February 16: An important Climate & Health Meeting was held at the Carter Center in Atlanta in an effort “to provide a crucial platform for the diverse stakeholders in the public health and climate communities to come together around solutions” to address the clinical change crisis. ASPPH is a formal member of the meeting’s “Partnership Circle,” and many faculty and leaders from our member schools and programs were involved in both organizing the meeting and as speakers. The meeting was originally sponsored by the CDC, but they withdrew before the inauguration, apparently fearing that the conference would upset the new Administration.
- March 1: ASPPH joined more than 2,000 other groups in urging Congress “to help ensure adequate funding for programs funded through annual appropriations, by continuing the bipartisan practice of providing relief from sequestration budget cuts and opposing any new efforts to cut these programs more deeply.” The letter also said, “Congress should avoid making further reductions in these programs and work to replace the scheduled sequestration cuts through a package that is balanced—both in how such relief is paid for and how it is applied to defense and NDD programs.”