MPHA Conference: Celebrating and Moving Ahead

The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) held its annual conference in Westborough today. Lots of happenings, so I’ll just hit the high notes.

This was the first major public event for MPHA’s new Executive Director, Toby Fisher. Toby is a long-time friend of many of HCFA, having headed NAMI Massachusetts and recently working with SEIU. HCFA is looking forward to continuing our partnership with MPHA under Toby’s leadership.

Senator Richard Moore and Representative Steven Walsh received MPHA’s legislative leadership award for their tireless work on payment reform legislation over the past session. Although Representative Walsh was unable to attend due to a family emergency, Senator Moore had interesting comments about where health care in Massachusetts is going.

Looking ahead, the Senator projects that hospitals and doctors will become more involved in community health under the newly reformed health care payment delivery system. He was optimistic about funding for the Public Health Trust, and believes that policy makers need to work to ensure permanent, expanded fiscal support.

Moore is also pleased with the appointments to the Health Policy Commission. We’ve done a lot over the past decade, he said, but there is still more to be done.

Yesterday, the Senate President appointed Senator Moore to a new commission examining various methods to regulate compounding pharmacies. Look for policy recommendations and new legislation in the next few months.

Former Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach was also honored by MPHA for his work. Auerbach has moved on to work at Northeastern University and said that he looks forward to the University being even more active in public health policy development.

New Interim DPH Commissioner Lauren Smith also spoke on the future of the Department. Calling out critics who have characterized the agency as “embattled” (or worse), Dr. Smith spoke of the long list of DPH accomplishments, including high rates of childhood vaccination, low HIV infection rates, successful tobacco prevention, the integration of population-based health initiatives, and effective substance abuse programs. Giving credit to Commissioner Auerbach’s leadership, Dr. Smith looked forward to many more successes to come by the Department.

Finally, MPHA launched its new priority focus on Health Equity. Dr. Brian Smedley of the Health Policy Institute at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies gave a keynote address, laying out the challenges and opportunities facing the effort. Stay tuned for an exciting policy initiative.
-Matt Noyes

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