The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health is an opportunity for transformational change (Nature Food)

NATURE FOOD | More than 50 years ago, President Richard Nixon convened the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, bringing together all the agencies of the US government, Congress and other stakeholders to address widespread hunger in the United States. That conference — chaired and organized by Dr Jean Mayer, the founder of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy — was historic in its vision, bipartisanship and impact. The insights and recommendations of the 1969 conference established nearly all of the major US food and nutrition programmes that are in place today. This included major expansion and harmonization of the National School Lunch Program; major expansion and harmonization of the Food Stamp programme (now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)); creation of the School Breakfast Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); and development of a new focus on food-based dietary guidelines and new consumer protections such as nutrition facts labelling2. Together, these policies achieved success in their major goal: to reduce caloric hunger nationally.

However, much has changed since 1969, and the United States and global community face stark new food and nutrition challenges. Chief among these are the intertwined pandemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as globally rising cardiovascular diseases, cancers and other diet-related diseases. In the United States, half of all adults have diabetes or prediabetes, while 3 in 4 are overweight or have obesity. In addition, undernutrition has still not been eradicated globally — a dire double burden of malnutrition. In 2020, about 3.9% of US households experienced very low food security, and an additional 6.6% experienced low food security.

In our nation and around the world, nutrition insecurity and diet-related chronic diseases also disproportionately afflict racial and ethnic minorities and lower income, rural and other underserved populations. At the same time, the industrialization of food, from the Green Revolution to food science, successfully mitigated the leading nutritional concerns of the twentieth century: mass starvation due to a soaring world population, endemic vitamin deficiency diseases, and common foodborne pathogens; however, it is not well designed for the needs of the twenty-first century: a fully healthy, just and sustainable food system. Together, these burdens on human health and natural resources are also producing tremendous economic losses in the United States and worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia–Ukraine war have further underscored fundamental weaknesses across our food systems, including fragile supply chains, persistent food and nutrition insecurity, and increasing inequities. COVID-19 also intersects directly with obesity, diabetes and hypertension, which are the top risk factors, beyond age, for poor outcomes from infection.

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Reducing The Health Harms Of Incarceration: Five Big Ideas From The Aspen Health Strategy Group (Forbes)

FORBES | Our nation has the highest incarceration rate in the world with 10 million people incarcerated each year, yet the health of these individuals is truly an afterthought. We must recognize that their experiences and their health outcomes are not contained in a vacuum. These individuals are often struggling with undiagnosed or untreated behavioral health issues and chronic illnesses prior to being jailed or imprisoned, and their health challenges before and after incarceration have a ripple effect that substantially impacts the health and well-being of their families and communities, and ultimately our country.

We know incarcerated Americans are sicker – those who have been jailed or imprisoned are associated with having an elevated risk for nearly all diseases, and they touch a much larger percentage of our population than many realize. In fact, 45% percent of Americans have had an immediate family member who has been incarcerated, and for these Americans, this connection to an incarcerated individual is correlated to a life expectancy that is two years less than for those without a family member who has been incarcerated. The carceral system is taking years off Americans’ lives, even if they haven’t served time.

For these reasons, we at the Aspen Health Strategy Group (AHSG) – which I co-chair with former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – have determined, “Incarceration is a primary source of poor health for individuals, families, communities, and our nation as a whole.” This is the issue AHSG’s 24 multi-sectoral leaders chose to study in 2021 as part of the Health, Medicine & Society program at the Aspen Institute. Tasked with exploring some of our nation’s greatest health challenges and preparing actionable solutions, we lay out five big ideas on “Reducing the Healthy Harms of Incarceration,” which we arrived at after extensive consultation with experts in the field, as well as with those who have personally experienced the health impacts of incarceration.

Our “five big ideas” center around expanding health coverage, providing coordinated care, implementing quality standards, and rethinking certain justice system approaches to prioritize health.

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Need for Affordable Care Cuts Across Party Lines

(The Hill, August 1, 2012)

Need for affordable care cuts across party lines
By Tom Daschle and Bill Frist

On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a decision that affects the health and well-being of every American, as well as the fiscal future of our nation. By affirming the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the private and public sectors can now turn to implementation, along with natural and needed shaping and modification of the underlying policy along the way.

The court’s decision can and should be a turning point for our national discussion and action on healthcare. Though the upcoming elections might amplify our differences in the short term, it is in the long-term interest of every American to begin now to work together and forge consensus-based solutions for our nation’s most critical healthcare challenges.

The United States currently has an expensive, uncoordinated and inefficient healthcare system. By 2020, healthcare spending will make up one-fifth of our national economy. Excessive and wasteful healthcare spending fuels our nation’s exploding federal debt and imposes unsustainable burdens on our federal and state governments, employers, individuals and their families. This is a grave threat to our nation’s future health, economic viability and ability to compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
As the co-leaders of the Bipartisan Policy Center Health Project, our mission is to bring together federal, state, business and workforce leaders to develop health system solutions that address ongoing budgetary and healthcare reform challenges. We are embarking on a new initiative to confront and curb the country’s out-of-control healthcare cost growth: Our goal is to promote a rational, competitive, accessible and affordable healthcare system. We will be collaborating on this initiative with Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), the distinguished co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center Debt Reduction Task Force. The task force is dedicated to reducing the federal deficit and helping America achieve a sustainable fiscal path, which simply cannot be accomplished without significant healthcare reform.

Healthcare cost containment is a profoundly complex and divisive issue, but we are steadfast in our belief that this issue can be addressed in a meaningful way. We as a nation cannot wait any longer. Our broken healthcare system can be fixed; there are solutions to each of the challenges. But we will never devise and apply them until we commit to do so together, reaching across the political aisle to work with one another.

All Americans generally agree on the end goals for health reform — appropriate and effective patient care, lower costs and easier access for all. We might not agree on the individual mandate, but we do agree on the power of embracing personal responsibility for our health and health decisions. We do not always agree on the most effective way to execute state insurance exchanges, but we can agree that these exchanges provide opportunities for states to use the power of market competition to control costs and engage their constituents on the individual level.

We all know that greater transparency in pricing and outcomes will help eliminate duplication, waste and inefficiency. We want to see our system provide frictionless and coordinated care that brings satisfaction to caregivers and peace of mind to patients. We want our health records and data systems to be brought into the 21st century through health information technology, providing vital health information when and where it is needed instantly and securely. The only question is how we get there.

Healthcare is in a period of explosive growth and transformation. Every day, the sector performs technological miracles, creates jobs and saves lives. We must harness this power, but at the same time, strive to do more. The American healthcare system has the power to be more efficient and more accurate, without sacrificing our nation’s capacity for private-sector innovation, productive public-private collaboration and incredible technological advancement.

Allowing healthcare costs to soar at unsustainable levels and allowing America to fall behind on key indicators of care quality and access is not a political victory for either side of the aisle. Assigning blame along partisan lines gets us nowhere.

A healthy population, a happy and productive workforce, and affordable healthcare are vital to the future of our nation. Unless we are willing to work together to transform our healthcare system for the better, these essential goals will remain out of our reach.

Former Senate Majority Leaders Daschle (D-S.D.), now a senior policy adviser at DLA Piper, and Frist (R-Tenn.) lead the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Project.

This article was originally featured in The Hill