AMWA’s Interim Meeting included a whirlwind of advocacy, engagement, and strategic planning. Prior to the meeting, board members, staff, and leaders met key officials at the White House, Senate Offices, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
On Friday, September 9, AMWA members met with legislative staff in Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office to discuss opportunities to expand support for research, education and training in sex and gender healthcare, gun violence solutions, and reproductive rights. AMWA thanked the Senator’s team for including language in the 2023 Senate Appropriations bills that would that promote integrating sex and gender into research and education. The same bill also includes funding for reproductive healthcare, human trafficking, and domestic violence–all issues relevant to AMWA. Andrew Fuentes, Legislative Assistant (Health Issues) also welcomed AMWA’s input on other healthcare issues, including the need to ensure fair and equitable algorithms when applying machine learning/artificial intelligence to improve healthcare delivery.
AMWA Leaders with Andrew Fuentes, Legislative Assistant (Heath Issues) to Senator Dianne Feinstein
AMWA Leaders with Morgan Mohr, Associate Director for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
We next met with White House senior staff in the Office of Public Engagement. We discussed gender policy, reproductive rights, and planetary health. Senior Advisor Josh Dickson shared recent efforts from President Biden’s Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services, including distribution of a HHS guidance on non-discrimination to pharmacists across the country and a HHS guidance clarifying the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which includes abortion services. They welcomed our insights on the challenges facing physicians and trainees, ranging from privacy issues, limitations on telehealth across state lines, to the need for education about the myriad clinical consequences in the “grey zone” that will escalate with abortion restrictions. We also raised the threat to public health given the anticipated physician shortage if fewer medical students and trainees apply to medical institutions in states with restrictive bans and more doctors choose not to practice in states that criminalize appropriate delivery of medical care. AMWA shared concerns that legislators were passing laws without any medical understanding and judges were making subjective decisions for individuals without sufficient knowledge of evidence-based medicine.
AMWA Leaders with Josh Dickson, Senior Advisor, White House Office of Public Engagement and Jessica Ennis, Director of Public Engagement, White House Council on Environmental Quality
AMWA Leaders on the Terrace of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
The conversation pivoted to concerns about the adverse effects on our planetary health and the need to consider the growing challenges facing population health and considerations of environmental justice, from adverse health effects of idling buses on children’s health, to air quality from wildfires, waterborne diseases from flooding, and challenges of sustained and excessive heat exposure to increased rates of chronic conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, and Parkinson’s disease. We all agreed on the need for an immediate and concerted effort to make these connections known as paramount to eliciting the kind of changes the U.S. must commit to for the sake of individual health and population survival.
Our third meeting was with Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS), Admiral Rachel Levine, MD and her team..We were thrilled to thank Admiral Levine in person for being a keynote speaker for both the AMWA Annual Meeting Gala and HPV Prevention Week earlier this year. Admiral Levine spoke with us about their efforts in two key offices: the Office of Women Health and the Office of Population Affairs. We discussed their desire to restore and revitalize Title X programs focused on adolescent health — an amazing public health success story – which over 30 years had achieved a consistent decline in teen pregnancies. Efforts were stalled when funding was withheld during 2016-2020, affecting services that provided cancer screenings, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and mental and behavioral healthcare.
AMWA Leaders with Admiral Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services
AMWA leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services
We discussed the growing prevalence of long COVID and associated conditions, particularly among women and the need for more research to better understand causation and potential management strategies. Admiral Levine spoke of the HHS focus on Health Equity among underrepresented groups and efforts to address health disparities. In addition, three new offices have been established within HHS:
- Office of Climate Change and Health Equity
- Office of Environmental Justice
- Office of Long COVID
As the conversation turned towards reproductive care, Admiral Levine spoke of the conversations needed and the importance of working state by state, community by community. These words would prove to be a guiding message for AMWA leaders throughout the interim meeting.
A key takeaway from our time on the Hill was the impact of voting and the importance of promoting civic health engagement. Studies show that physicians are less likely to vote as compared to the general population, despite the fact that issues on the ballot may have a significant impact on the patients whom we serve.
Our challenge: Invite Every Member of AMWA to register to vote (if not yet registered) and make a plan to vote.