Tweetup at APHA: Public Health Pride, Concerns

At the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, the de Beaumont Foundation held its first-ever Tweetup, a tweetchat that engaged in-person attendees and public health leaders across the country. Here are highlights of the conversation. See a full summary.

1. How would you describe public health to a child?

2. What’s the toughest question you get about public health?

3. Fill in the blank. I work in public health because _____________.

4. How confident are you that health in the U.S. is moving in the right direction? (GIFs encouraged.)

5. What policy areas are most important to you community’s health?

6. What words would you use to describe public health professionals?

7. What partnerships are most important in public health?

Read the full summary.

Public Health a Winner in 2018 Elections

By Catherine D. Patterson, MPP

In states and cities across the nation last week, Americans voted “yes” for public health – passing ballot initiatives that have the potential to improve community health through housing, education, financial security, and other areas.

As I was leaving my local polling place, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal stopped me to ask why I had voted in the mid-term election. When I told him I was interested in a number of the local ballot measures, his eyes glazed over. He clearly wanted to focus on my state’s gubernatorial election, and my answer wasn’t what he was looking for.

This interaction reminded me that many people (and the media) often overlook how important our local choices are. This year’s ballot initiatives show the power that local residents have in shaping the environments where they live, work, and play. Here’s a look at how some ballot initiatives fared.

At the state level, three conservative states voted to expand Medicaid. Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah approved ballot referendums to expand coverage to about 300,000 people. While insurance coverage doesn’t guarantee improved health, the resounding support for healthcare access in these states was notable.

Financial security has a clear tie to health and well-being, and citizens in Arkansas and Missouri voted to raise the minimum wage. In an advisory referendum, voters in Chicago showed their support for an increase in the minimum wage and voiced their approval for paid sick leave.

Californians approved two statewide measures that will fund affordable housing efforts. These will complement Measure C in San Francisco, which will tax local businesses to pay for housing for the city’s homeless. Affordable housing measures also passed in Austin, Baltimore, and Charlotte.

Baltimore voters passed a creative measure that aims at eliminating structural and institutional racism. The so-called “Equity Assistance Fund” will provide assistance to city residents who have experienced discrimination based on their race, gender, or economic status. Given the link between health and discrimination, it will be interesting to see how this policy is implemented and evaluated.

Dallas, Indianapolis, San Diego, and Seattle all passed initiatives to support education. Seattle’s measure provides funding for pre-K through community college, and will provide a certain number of local high school graduates free tuition to community college. Dallas’s successful education tax will, among other things, increase funding for early childhood education and expand the number of pre-K classrooms in the city.

In Denver another initiative focused on children received broad support. Voters in the Mile High City passed a ballot measure designed to provide fresh, healthy food to low-income children.

A number of cities passed measures that will fund improvement to their infrastructure. Austin, Tucson, and Charlotte all passed transportation bonds that will increase access to bike lanes and improve walkability in their municipalities. These policies are very similar to Complete Streets, which helps ensure safe streets for motorists, pedestrians, mass transit, and cyclists.

If you’re interested in learning more about some of these local measures, see Ballotpedia’s “Local Ballot Measure Elections in 2018,” and CityLab’s “On Ballot Measures, A Progressive Sweep.”

Catherine Patterson is Managing Director of Urban Health and Policy at the de Beaumont Foundation.

de Beaumont Foundation Announces “40 Under 40 in Public Health” List

The de Beaumont Foundation is excited to announce the first-ever list of “40 Under 40 in Public Health.” The list will recognize public health leaders and showcase new ideas, creative problem-solving, and innovative solutions that make communities healthier and strengthen the public health field.

“Many programs and lists recognize leaders in healthcare, and most ‘health’ lists are focused on healthcare delivery and not community health,” said Brian C. Castrucci, CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation. “Our list will showcase leaders who recognize that health is more than healthcare and who are showing leadership in making their communities healthier.”

Applications will be accepted until midnight EST Feb. 28, 2019, and the list will be released in spring 2019. Candidates can be nominated by a supervisor or colleague, and self-nominations are also accepted. To be eligible, a nominee must be actively working as a public health professionals; a current state or local government public health employee, or someone who partners closely with a state or local health department to improve public health; and under 40 years old as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Visit the 40 Under 40 webpage to see criteria and other information, nominate a colleague or employee, or apply. Questions? Email 40Under40@debeaumont.org.

Public Health on the Ballot: A Review of Local Initiatives

By Catherine D. Patterson, MPP

I love to vote. I remember going to vote with my mom as a kid. We’d wait in line, get her ballot, and then cram into one of those make-shift booths behind a flimsy curtain. I’d watch her fill in each oval, curious about the hushed tone that lay over the entire room (usually a school gym). Once finished, she’d let me hand her ballot to the local poll worker, and then I’d proudly stick out my chest for a coveted “I voted” sticker. I still get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction when I get one of those stickers.

At the de Beaumont Foundation, we believe that the community conditions in which people live impact health. CityHealth, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, provides cities with a curated list of policies that are proven to make cities healthier places to live, work, and do business. CityHealth rates the performance of each of the 40 largest cities on the following nine policy recommendations: access to high quality pre-K, paid sick leave, safe streets, affordable housing, Tobacco 21, alcohol sales control, restaurant grading, healthy food procurement, and smoke-free environments.

Given what we now know about what actually contributes to overall health, choices about local policies become an opportunity for residents to vote for better health. While access to healthcare is important, it is not sufficient. For the upcoming election, I reviewed ballot measures in the nation’s 40 largest cities. What are city residents being asked to consider? And which measures will affect public health? Here’s what I found.

Four cities (Austin, Baltimore, Charlotte, and San Francisco) have housing measures on the ballot. Most of these are bond initiatives attempting to make housing more affordable. San Francisco’s Measure C is proposing to tax local businesses in order to provide the funding to house the city’s homeless residents.

These local measures could have a major impact on community health. Affordable housing has been shown to be associated with improved health outcomes, and having access to quality, stable housing reduces exposure to environmental toxins and has positive benefits for mental health.

At least four cities have education initiatives (Dallas, Indianapolis, San Diego, and Seattle). Dallas voters are deciding whether to increase taxes to pay for certain programs, such as early childhood education. Done right, pre-K can have significant effects on kids.  Pre-K participants have shown increased rates of immunizations and screenings, regular visits to the doctor, and routine dental care. Long term, children who attend high quality pre-K programs show increased high-school graduation rates, complete more years of education, have higher earnings, and show reduced rates of crime and teen pregnancy.

Denver has a local tax initiative that would provide fresh, healthy food to low-income children. The tie to health here is very clear, and this effort complements a recent executive order from Mayor Hancock to adopt a healthy food procurement policy for vending machines on city property.

Chicago voters are being asked to consider both earned sick leave and raising the minimum wage (both of which have been shown to improve health outcomes). However, these measures are nonbinding and are purely being used to gauge public opinion about the issues.

Local decisions can have an outsized impact on communities. The choices that voters will make on Nov. 6 will have an effect on the health and well-being of our nation’s communities. While some of these local ballot initiatives may not look like a traditional public health interventions, there is no doubt that evidence-based policies are essential for achieving better health for all.

I look forward to reporting back after the election to let you know the voting results for these and other issues.

Catherine Patterson is Managing Director of Urban Health and Policy at the de Beaumont Foundation.

 

National Survey Reveals Strong Bipartisan Support for Public Health

At the launch of the autumn flu season and amid a rash of weather-related disasters affecting many states, almost nine in 10 registered voters (89 percent) believe public health departments play an important role in the health of their community, according to a new poll released today by the de Beaumont Foundation.

Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, the poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe state government should ensure that every community has access to basic public health protections, including:

  • stopping the spread of communicable diseases (8.5 on a 10.0 point scale);
  • bringing together other government agencies in emergencies (8.4);
  • protecting air and water quality (8.4); and
  • supporting maternal and child health (8.3).

A majority of voters (57%) said they would pay more in taxes to ensure access to these basic public health protections.

click to enlarge infographic

“Americans overwhelmingly value the protections public health departments deliver and want to ensure that every community has them,” said Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, MA, chief executive officer of the de Beaumont Foundation. “While Americans seem divided on so many issues this election year, they are united in their support for public health because they understand the vital role it plays in their communities.”

This support for public health crosses political party, geography, gender, race, age, education, and income. The consensus support for public health was driven by overwhelming majorities of African Americans (85%), self-identified liberals (78%), Hispanics (75%), mothers (74%), working class people (72%), and Northeasterners (71%). Also expressing support were majorities of self-described conservatives (55%), white men (53%), and fathers (51%).

The poll highlights opportunities to broaden support for public health, by demonstrating the value of public service departments to voters who expressed support with less intensity than other groups — including high-income voters and men who self-identified as Republicans, age 18 to 54, college-educated, white, fathers, or lean Democrats.

Download the infographic.

Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies via telephone between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8, 2018, the poll surveyed 1,000 voters nationally, with an over-sample of 498 voters in rural areas. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.1% for the national sample and +/- 3.7% for the rural over-sample.