Nutrition

Legislative Session Wrap-up & Farm Bill Stuff

Arizona’s Legislative Session in the Books

Well, the 2018 Legislative Session is in the books.  All in all, it was a good year for public health at the state level.  Several more good public health-related bills were signed today including:

HB 2324 Voluntary Certification for Community Health Workers

HB 2088 Public Health Guidelines in Schools

HB 2235 Dental Therapy Licensure

SB 1245 SNAP- Fruits and Vegetables

HB2371 Statewide Food Truck Licensing 

I’ll be doing a free Webinar about the legislative session Thursday May 17 at noon with the UA Center for Rural Health & the UA Telemedicine Program. Visit the AZ Telemedicine Program’s Website to register. 

Here's a link to a PowerPoint that summarizes the Victories, Missed Opportunities, Disappointments, and things that were in the final budget that link to public health. It's the ppt that I'll be using during the webinar on Thursday.

 

US Farm Bill: An Opportunity to Leverage Policy to Reduce Obesity

You’ve probably heard about the “Farm Bill” at one point or another.  While it’s called the Farm Bill- it’s not just about farms. It’s the bill that sets the food and agricultural budget and policy for the US. The bill impacts farming livelihood, and also determines how food is grown and which foods are grown.  It was last reauthorized by Congress in 2014 and Congress is now working on a new reauthorization.
 
The 2014 Farm Bill  (the  Agricultural Act of 2014) included some changes and reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.  In Arizona, SNAP benefits help put food on the table for more than one million people each month, with more than half of the benefits going to kids and teens.

The 2014 Farm Bill did a few things that promoted healthier options by requiring SNAP retailers to provide healthy choices. The ’14 law also provided grant programs to encourage people that receive SNAP benefits to buy more fruits and vegetables, provide funding for loan programs for healthy food retailers, and create opportunities for schools to add different kinds of vegetables as part of school menus.

We’re hoping that Stakeholders like us can better leverage the Farm Bill to improve healthy eating this time around now that we have a member of our delegation on the Agriculture Committee.  Arizona District 1 Congressman Tom O'Halleran is on the House committee. 

Back when I was at the ADHS we worked with ASU on a report to provide information to Congress about how SNAP could be leveraged to improve healthy eating.  The full report has the details but here are a few of the concepts in the evidence review:

  • Improving access to healthy food by establishing guidelines requiring SNAP vendors to carry more healthier options

  • Establishing nutrition standards for foods that qualify for purchase using SNAP benefits.  Right now, SNAP benefits can be used for basically any retail food no matter how unhealthy it is (alcohol can’t be purchased with SNAP benefits). 

  •  Making changes to the SNAP education program to incorporate evidence based public health practices to bring about sustained changes in participant behavior.

Rather than strengthen the food quality requirements, the bill currently being debated by the House Agriculture Committee would expand the existing SNAP work requirements.  Right now, SNAP requires childless adults between 18 and 49 who don’t have disabilities to work or be in work training to qualify. The draft legislation would expand the work requirement to include adults up to 59 and people who care for children older than 6. The draft bill also would set tighter time frames for recipients to find work and stiffen the penalties if they don’t.

SNAP recipients covered under the work requirement would have to document that they are working or getting job training for 20 hours a week. The first time an individual doesn’t comply with that requirement would trigger a loss of benefits for a year. Failing to comply again would result in being locked out of SNAP for three years.

The proposed changes would increase state costs by requiring states to collect monthly information from most SNAP users about their hours worked, their hours of participation in work programs, and the reasons they may not be working in a work program. 

The APHA has set up a way that you can Contact your representative today and urge them to include nutrition standards for foods to qualify for purchase under SNAP and also to comment about the new proposed work/work training requirements.

 

Sonoran Prevention Works Scores Syringe Access Grant

Sonoran Prevention Works received a $125,000 grant from the Vitalyst Health Foundation  to support advocacy and education for syringe access programs – a proven harm reduction strategy in response to the opioid crisis and rising hepatitis-C and HIV infection rates. They’ll be partnering with the University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson and Creosote Partners to destigmatize syringe access programs and understand the comprehensive needs of people who inject drugs.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office will also work with Sonoran Prevention Works to implement a needle stick prevention program and to educate law enforcement on injection drug use. These partnerships will work to support policy change that treats substance use as a public health issue.

Arizona's 2018 Legislative Session in the Books

Well, Arizona’s legislative session ended last week, so you’re spared my impossibly long policy updates.  You can visit this PowerPoint to dive into the good things, bad things, and the missed opportunities this year.  It’s still a draft summary of the Session because the Governor hasn’t taken action on several bills (voluntary certification of community health workers, public health measures in schools, dental therapy, food truck licensing, and fresh produce in SNAP). BTW- Let me know if you see anything I've left out of the draft powerpoint so I can update it before my Webinar next week

I’ll be doing a Webinar about the legislative session on Thursday May 17 at noon in conjunction with the UA Center for Rural Health & the UA Telemedicine Program.  Visit the AZ Telemedicine Program’s Website to register.

 

FDA Finally Implementing ACA’s Menu Labeling Requirement

You might have noticed that more and more restaurants and fast food places are starting to put calorie and other nutrition information on their menus.  That’s not a coincidence or accident- they’re implementing the menu nutrition labeling requirements in the Affordable Care Act.  Section 4205 of the ACA requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie content information for standard menu items directly on the menu and menu boards.  Vending machine operators with 20 or more machines are also required to disclose calorie content for certain items. 

Nutrition clarity is a real opportunity for public health change.  Not only will the new labels give the public key information to help them make better decisions about what they buy for themselves and their families- it’ll give pause to restaurants before they label their menus- giving them an opportunity to change ingredients to lower calorie counts.  It may even spur a trend away from super-sizes and toward more appropriate and reasonable serving sizes.  With 32% of the calories consumed in the US tied to eating outside the home- this is an important opportunity. 

Anyway, the FDA announced this week that they’re finally implementing the requirements that were established by the ACA.  Another evidence-based policy intervention brought to you by the Affordable Care Act.

 

CMS Denies Kansas’ Request for 3-year Lifetime Medicaid Eligibility

This week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator denied Kansas’ request to impose a 3-year lifetime limits on Medicaid eligibility. 

Her decision bodes well for us in Arizona- at least when it comes to lifetime coverage limits (although CMS is poised to almost certainly approve AZ’s work/work training request).  Arizona law requires AHCCCS to annually ask CMS for permission to require work (or work training) and income reporting for “able bodied adults” and a 5-year lifetime limit on AHCCCS eligibility (with some exceptions).

A few months ago AHCCCS turned in their official waiver request asking permission to implement those requirements.  The AHCCCS Director recently postponed the negotiation process of the lifetime limit request to expedite approval of the work requirements.  See his letter here.  Word on the street is that AHCCCS expects approval of the work requirements in June.

 

Mid-year Federal Budget Cut Request

This week the White House submitted a special message to Congress requesting they rescind $15B bill in budget authority from the current fiscal year. The proposal includes unobligated balances from prior-year appropriations and reductions to budget authority for mandatory programs.

Below are selected programs proposed for rescission by the Administration that may impact public health programs. For more information, view the entire rescission proposal here.

  • Children’s Health Insurance Fund: The proposal would rescind $5B in amounts made available by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 to supplement the 2017 national allotments to states, including $3B in unobligated balances available on October 1, 2017. 

  • Child Enrollment Contingency Fund: The proposal would rescind $2B in amounts available for the CHIP Contingency Fund, of which there were $2.4B available. The Contingency Fund provides payments to states that experience funding shortfalls due to higher than expected enrollment. 

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center): The proposal would rescind $800M in amounts made available for FY11-19 for the Innovation Center, of which there were $3.5B available on October 2017. The Innovation Center was created to test innovative payment and service delivery models to reduce program expenditures under Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP while preserving or enhancing quality care.

 

Speak for Health: Fund Public Health in 2019

As Congress begins its work on the FY 2019 appropriations process, Speak for Health and tell our members of Congress  to reject the proposed cuts to important public health programs in the president's budget proposal and instead to prioritize public health by building upon the important increased investments in public health provided by Congress in FY 2018.

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Most of you know Dr. Bob England, who's been on the AZ public health scene for the last 30 years including 12 years as the Director of the Maricopa County Public Health Department.  You know that he's a terrific cartoonist.  But did you know he's an engaging travel writer?

Bob's been living for the last couple of months just outside of London.  He's been writing some terrifically entertaining travelogues- with a splash of public health of course. Take a few minutes when you're on a comfortable couch and enjoy Travelogue 1 & 2: Getting Settled.  Here’s Travelogue 3: Nutrition. Enjoy.

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