After working with state health policy for seven years and Medicaid for 16, I had the opportunity for the first time to attend the 30th Annual National Association of State Health Policy (NASHP) Conference on October 23–25, 2017. Here are my top three takeaways.
1. Achieve Success by Helping People Solve Their Problems
Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, the newly appointed U.S. Surgeon General, shared some great information about transitioning to his current role. He talked about his time as Indiana State Health Commissioner, during which he focused on improving general public health by helping people solve their specific problems, creating a win-win. This focus included working with law enforcement to reduce crime while simultaneously creating a statewide drug needle program. As the parent of two young children, I appreciate the Surgeon General’s realistic outlook: Many public health problems don’t have easy solutions.
2. Focus on the 80% that Unites Us
Professor Len Nichols, the director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics (and professor of Health Policy at George Mason University), provided a humorous opening presentation. Professor Nichols also reminded us to focus on policy in support of the 80% of things that unite us rather than the 20% of things that are contentious. 80% is a lot of common ground on which we can make progress — an important element of this common ground is funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
3. Prevent Illness Instead of Just Treating Illness
Dr. Allison Sampson-Jackson, the CEO of Integration Solutions, gave an eye-opening presentation titled “Building on What is Strong.” Her talk addressed Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), such as emotional abuse. We should all address ACEs in order to raise stronger children and create a brighter future. Dr. Sampson-Jackson told the audience to focus on prevention, not just treatment. Her specific analogy: If you live in a village of 10 children, and 9 of the 10 children have diarrhea, are you going to only treat the diarrhea — or are you also going to pursue measures to prevent its spread, and purify the village’s contaminated water well? Furthermore, Dr. Sampson-Jackson explained the ACE Score, which ranges from “0” (no exposure to certain categories of trauma and child abuse) to "10" (exposure to all categories), and stated that a child who goes from a 0 score to a 4 score is 1,133% more likely to use injected drugs. ACEs seem to be an important topic for states to address through 1115 or 1332 waivers.
Lastly, Dr. Adam Obley, chief resident at Oregon Health & Science University, presented. NASHP offered two pre-session opportunities, and because BerryDunn recently helped West Virginia with their 1115 Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Waiver, we attended Dr. Obley’s “Using Evidence to Inform Policy Making” talk. He talked about the need for data and research, and stressed the importance of quality of research and multiple data points to inform health policy — something I agree with wholeheartedly.
I look forward to utilizing these takeaways in my daily work. If you think BerryDunn can assist your state in developing 1115 or 1332 waivers to improve health outcomes, please reach out to me.