The Affordable Care Act: Reflections on 10 Years

Law & Policy InsightsMedicaid

May 6, 2021
by Sarah Somers

Despite repeated attacks by opponents in the past 10 years, the ACA has not only survived – it has thrived. Because of the law, millions of people gained insurance coverage for the first time. Millions more have increased security when insured, benefitting from prohibitions on discrimination by insurers and protections for people with preexisting conditions. In this commentary, Sarah Somers, J.D., M.P.H., managing attorney at the Network’s Southeastern Region Office, reflects on a decade of significant events and greatest successes in the ACA’s history, and provides a preview of things to come.

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Social Determinants of Health Legislation: Opportunities for a New Future

Law & Policy Insights

May 5, 2021

Since as early as 2008, we have known the integral role the Social Determinants of Health (SDOHs) play in health outcomes. However, it was not until 2020 that Congress acknowledged public health’s important role in “working across sectors on social determinants of health” and funded an SDOH pilot program. Although the project is a step in the right direction, we must also support policies and legislation that directly addresses the SDOHs, including the Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2021 recently reintroduced to the House of Representatives.

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Public Health Law News Roundup – May 2021

Law & Policy Insights

May 5, 2021

Some of the public health law and policy issues in the headlines in recent weeks include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s move to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars; President Biden’s plan to strengthen America's digital infrastructure; new federal guidelines to increase access to an important Opioid use disorder treatment; threats and harassment directed at public health officials due to COVID-19; the corrosive impact of racism on the health of Black Americans; how public health can be improved by addressing climate change; and Oregon’s newly passed legislation designed to help prevent youth suicide.

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Job Opportunity: Program Associate (National Office)

Network News

May 5, 2021

The Network has an opening for a Program Associate. The Program Associate will be responsible for supporting program activities for the Network including data and reporting, website, conference and meetings support. The Program Associate must have the ability to work collaboratively within project teams, and interact effectively with staff, leadership, consultants, members, funders and sponsors. For best consideration, please apply by April 30th, 2020.

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As Children Transition to In-Person Learning, USDA Announces Important Measures to Ensure Food Security and Safety of Students

Law & Policy InsightsFood Safety and SecurityHealth in School

April 29, 2021
by Mathew R. Swinburne

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has skyrocketed. It is estimated that in 2021, 42 million Americans have lacked sufficient food to lead healthy lives. This parallel pandemic of hunger deeply affects America’s children with an estimated 12 million children experiencing food insecurity. Prior to the pandemic the free and reduced-price school meal programs were critical tools for addressing food insecurity, serving an estimated 22 million children. A recent study out of Tufts University found that school meals were the most nutritious source of food for most American school children, further emphasizing the critical nature of these programs. The need for these important programs has only grown with the challenges created by COVID-19.

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National Minority Health Month: Raising Awareness and Encouraging Action to Address Health Disparities

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

April 21, 2021
by April Shaw, Carrie McLachlan, Dawn Hunter and Mathew R. Swinburne

Several universities across the U.S. have announced plans to require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before heading back to campus for the fall semester. Brown, Cornell, Duke, Northeastern, and Rutgers are among them. Some institutions of higher learning, like Virginia Tech, have determined that they cannot require vaccinations because of the vaccine’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status, but this stance rests on shaky legal grounds.

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Efforts at Some Universities to Require COVID-19 Vaccinations Face State Legislative and Executive Challenges

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19EducationHealth in School

April 21, 2021
by Leila Barraza

Several universities across the U.S. have announced plans to require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before heading back to campus for the fall semester. Brown, Cornell, Duke, Northeastern, and Rutgers are among them. Some institutions of higher learning, like Virginia Tech, have determined that they cannot require vaccinations because of the vaccine’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status, but this stance rests on shaky legal grounds.

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Federal Investment Shows Promise in Helping to Bridge the Digital Divide

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthRural HealthTelehealth

April 21, 2021
by Betsy Lawton

The digital divide continues to prevent many households and students from accessing online services that can support healthy outcomes. However, federal lawmakers and agencies have recently taken short-term steps to address the largest source of the digital divide—affordability—and some longer-term federal fixes to the digital divide are on the horizon. Permanent federal, state, and local policies and programs must prioritize affordable broadband service for all households and provide regulatory oversight to ensure the digital divide does not exacerbate health inequities now, and in the future.

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Public Health Law News Roundup – April 2021

Law & Policy Insights

April 6, 2021

Some of the public health law and policy issues in the headlines in recent weeks include the Biden administration’s efforts to implement a national COVID-19 testing strategy; the city of Sante Fe’s innovative approach to addressing homelessness; a House bill that would significantly expand voting rights; a Colorado bill providing added protections for public health workers; vaccine mandates for health care workers; a new law in California that expands access to mental health and addiction treatments; and COVID-19 vaccination registration and information websites that violate disability laws.

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American Rescue Plan Act Provides Opportunity for Syringe Access

Law & Policy InsightsHarm Reduction Legal ProjectSubstance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction

March 30, 2021
by Corey Davis

President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) into law on March 11, 2021. While most media attention focused on its headline provisions, including $1,400 stimulus checks for many individuals, $350 billion in aid to state, local, and tribal governments, and expansions in the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credit, the Act also contains historic assistance for harm reduction programs.

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Power Sharing, Capacity Building, and Community Leadership: Common Elements of Public Health Practice and Community Lawyering

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

March 29, 2021

Community lawyering, also called movement lawyering, is an approach to social justice which de-centers lawyers as the linchpins of change and instead focuses on empowering communities and movements. The updated 2020 10 Essential Public Health Services include core values and activities that are also reflected in community lawyering. Among these priorities are communicating to inform and educate, mobilizing communities and partnerships, supporting laws to advance health equity, and ensuring equitable access to services needed for health.

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