Institute of Politics

Health and Human Services

Committee Overview

The Health and Human Services committee examines policy issues and solutions related to public health, healthcare, and human service delivery. The committee’s work has touched a variety of topic areas including healthcare cost containment, the integration of human services, and improving primary care.

Summary of Current Initiatives

Lead Contamination in Southwestern Pennsylvania

An analysis by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) found that elevated blood lead levels within Pennsylvania are more prevalent in the Commonwealth’s cities because of the greater number of children under seven, low income families, and older housing (i.e. built before 1950). In looking at 20 of Pennsylvania’s large municipalities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the DOH found elevated blood lead levels at rates more than twice the rest of the state.

The primary source of lead exposure within Allegheny County is paint from paint chips and dust. The county has older housing stock, which increases the chance of lead paint being found in homes. More than 86 percent of Allegheny County’s housing was constructed before the discontinued use of lead based paints. 60 percent of homes in the county were built before 1950, which carry a higher risk of lead based paint.

Exposure to lead can have profound impact on individual cognitive function and societal public health, including increased rates of ADHD, increased rate of antisocial behaviors, and diminished physical health outcomes.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) engages in a variety of efforts to reduce and monitor lead exposure within Allegheny County. These programs include surveillance, risk assessment of sources, prevention, and response to children and families effected by lead. Furthermore, Pennsylvania Departmental of Health, PSWA, and many community organizations such as The Penn State Extension, Grow Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Conversation District, are working to develop strategies for mitigating lead exposure.

The committee chairs will work closely with the Institute to identify regional leaders and subject matter experts who are working in this space to serve on an advisory committee. Throughout the summer, Institute staff will consult the advisory committee to frame the issue and to develop the agenda for a public forum on this critical public health issue.

Economic Impact of Food Insecurity Forum

The Institute continues to build on this work through the development of an educational forum devoted to addressing the economic impact of food insecurity throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. In partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank, the forum and will address the data and network needs of food programs across the nation as presented in Feeding Hunger’s National report, Hunger in America 2014, as well as the local and state policy response to this issue. This forum will take place in the fall of 2017.

Ongoing and/or Completed Projects

Health Care Cost Containment

The Institute convened a series of meetings of approximately 100 elected officials, foundation and community leaders, and business and healthcare executives and advocates to discuss state-level policy reforms that could lead to greater value in our healthcare system. The three programs focused on options for state policymakers and regional leaders, best practices and strategies from other states, and the role of health systems and insurers.

Medicaid Long-term Care

Through a policy brief and forum, the Institute - in partnership with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation - brought together a group of community leaders in health care for a candid look at the future of Medicaid long-term care. The work examined how demographics, demand, cost shifting to the public sector, and management issues are combining to place rapidly growing financial strains on Medicaid’s ability to fund long-term care.

Primary Care

This policy brief attempts to inform state policymakers on how to foster the development of primary care in Pennsylvania amid a nationwide shortage of providers. Although primary care is the backbone of the health care system, evidence indicates that it is deteriorating and that there will be a shortage of primary care providers within the next 10 to 20 years. New models of primary care have expanded rapidly to meet this need with the incorporation of more nonphysical staff members. New payment structures for services are also needed.

Memberships

The Health & Human Services Committee is cochaired by:

  • Ms. Candi Castleberry-Singleton, Founder & Chair, Dignity and Respect Campaign
  • The Honorable Dan B. Frankel, Democratic Caucus Chair, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Click here for a complete list of committee members.

The Health & Human Services Committee is carefully crafted to be balanced and represent a variety of stakeholders. However, we occasionally have spots available for members in certain sectors who may be underrepresented on the committee. Please contact Briana Mihok at 412-624-7792 or bnd2@pitt.edu if you have an interest in serving as a member.

Publications

The following publications issued by the Institute are related to the focus areas of the Health and Human Services Committee: