Congress Faces Lengthy Fall To-Do List

The halls of Capitol Hill remain quiet for another few days, as Member of Congress engage their constituents back home and enjoy some rest before returning to a gridlocked DC.

In and out- Congress is back in session on September 10th and will begin with a lengthy list of issues to address, including (but not limited to) the development of an alternative to the across-the-board budget cut (known as the sequester) set to take place in January that almost all agree is a bad idea, completion of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget process, and renewal (or not) of existing but temporary tax reductions. However, few expect any of that work to receive serious attention until after the November elections. The pre-election fall session of Congress is likely to consist of just 8-11 working days, as Members will spend the remainder of September and October campaigning to keep their seats. Continue reading

NCHS Releases Oral Health Disparities Data Brief

The National Center for Health Statistics has released a data brief on oral health disparities, as measured by objectives contained in the Healthy People 2020 initiative (HP2020). HP2020 consists of 42 topics, of which oral health is one, and over 1200 objectives (33 within oral health) selected as indicators of the nation’s health. The NCHS data brief identifies several significant oral health disparities, which will hopefully serve to inform the decisions of government policy makers.

Key Findings:

  • Approximately one in four children aged 3–5 and 6–9 years living in poverty had untreated dental caries.
  • Dental sealants were more prevalent among non-Hispanic white adolescents (56%) compared with non-Hispanic black adolescents (32%) aged 13–15.
  • Among adults aged 45–64, 29% had a full set of permanent teeth (excluding third molars); this includes 19% of Hispanic adults and 11% of non-Hispanic black adults compared with nearly 35% of non-Hispanic white adults.
  • More than one-third of older adults aged 65–74 living below the federal poverty level (34%) were edentulous, whereas approximately one-eighth of older adults living above the poverty level.

Read the full report…

Tools for Talking to Congress

AADR has joined a partnership of several hundred national and state organizations that are pushing Congress to develop a balanced approached to deficit reduction, one that does not place a disproportionate burden on the domestic discretionary budget. The domestic discretionary budget, or non-defense discretionary (NDD) budget as it is often called, includes programs critical to the health and growth of the nation, such as those found in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education. NDD programs have been repeatedly targeted for reduction by Congress, despite the fact that they now stand at 50-year lows as a percentage of GDP.

Congress is now in a month-long recess period that concludes after Labor Day. As a result, Members are home visiting with their constituents. The time is right to engage the process. The NDD Summit Steering Committee has developed a toolkit to help individuals and organizations communicate their views on the budget to Members of Congress. The toolkit includes:

  1. A short video overview of the current debate and consequences;
  2. Tips for participating in town hall events and candidate forums;
  3. A sample op-ed;
  4. A flyer that you can distribute in your community; and
  5. Frequently asked questions about the January 2013 across-the-board budget reductions.

Budget Advocacy Toolkit

Summer on the Hill #5: Closing Out the Summer

We are currently experiencing one of the warmest summers in Washington and the climate on Capitol Hill is just cooling off as Members of Congress prepare to enter August recess and the election season.  And like them, I too, will be heading for vacation as my residential component of the Gert Quigley Fellowship ends this week.

Over the past seven weeks I have met individuals from ADEA, NIDCR, congressional staff, numerous lobbying firms and national  non-profit organizations, and have attended lectures and symposiums on topics ranging from biomedical research and public health to health care reform to the President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.  Some encounters were engaging and substantive while others were less so.  That said, I have come to recognize the importance of simply making contacts and advocating for your issues to anyone who is at least willing to listen.

Whether you are the PhD scientist or social worker, you need to lobby and advocate on the importance of your work to not only Congress but also the public.  Though our country has come to believe that government has become dysfunctional (and rightly so at times), we must never become so cynical or worse, apathetic, to believe that our voice cannot impact an open ear and that we cannot have a conversation with the other side of the table. Because we can and must as it is the only way to move our society forward.