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.

Given widespread public concern about the risks posed by lead contamination, the Institute’s Health and Human Services Committee, determined that the region would benefit from further assessment of the problem, as well as the exploration of possible solutions by the Institute. The goal of the project is to increase the baseline of information about the impacts of lead on human growth and development, the primary sources of lead in the region, and best practices from around the country in terms of remediation.

Lead-safe Demolition Working Group Report

In response to a request from the Allegheny County Health Department, the Institute’s Health and Human Services Policy Committee formed the Lead-safe Demolition Working Group, a special committee to draft a model lead-safe demolition ordinance for municipalities in Southwestern Pennsylvania. It is chaired by Dan Frankel and Leslie Osche, and serving on the working group are local and state government officials, nonprofit and community leaders, and academics from throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. The working group is examining current regional demolition practices and national best practices in municipal lead-safe demolition. The working group released its report in fall 2019. The report can be downloaded here

Creating Healthy Communities: Get the Lead Out Conference

The Institute’s Health and Human Services Policy Committee agreed to participate in and support an event entitled Creating Healthy Communities: Get the Lead Out Conference sponsored by the local nonprofit Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE) and a variety of other regional partners. The event, held in May 2018 and pictured above, featured as its keynote speaker noted epidemiologist Dr. Bruce Lanphear, who informed attendees that there is no safe level of lead. At all levels, lead has been found to cause developmental delays in children, and can possibly be a contributing factor in a number of diseases affecting adults as well. Other speakers included Dr. Pamela Pugh, the chief public health advisor for the City of Flint, Michigan, who discussed her city’s response to their water crisis. WHE also brought in experts from a variety of municipalities who offered best practices in addressing the various sources of lead: water, soil, and paint/dust. Following the presentations, participants helped to identify potential next steps for the region to address lead exposure through a decision-tree exercise lead by the Luma Institute. The event served as a launching pad for further discussions on a region-wide lead prevention strategy. For more information about the event, please visit the event page here.

 

Ongoing and/or Completed Projects

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 addressed 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 took place in the fall of 2017.

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:

  • The Honorable Dan B. Frankel, Democratic Caucus Chair, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Leslie Osche, Commissioner, Butler County

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: