A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Public Health

A Call To Action For Domestic HIV/AIDS Investment

Nearly 25,000 experts, advocates, and impacted populations converged on Mexico City last week for the International AIDS Conference. The 17th meeting was as much political as scientific, with contentious issues around stigma, antiretroviral drug access, and research funding shaping the dialogue and debate. While the international meeting drew much needed attention to the epidemic raging in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, Black American leaders shed light on the U.S’s failure to address the epidemic within its very own borders. During a press conference, leaders from the Black AIDS... Read more »

Big Progress on Smoking

The percentage of adults smoking in Massachusetts reached a historic low in 2007, dropping 8 percent from 2006 to 2007 (EOHHS press release here). Only 16.4% of the adult population is smoking, and the number continues to fall. This gives Massachusetts the fourth-lowest smoking rate in the country, numbers that Commissioner John Auerbach and Secretary JudyAnn Bigby both called “astonishing” and “wonderful.” At a State House event today, Representative Koutoujian, Representative Walrath, and Senator Fargo all spoke to the efficacy of health reform and its impact on tobacco control. The drop... Read more »

What a difference a dollar makes

On July 1, the cigarette tax increased by $1/pack. In conjunction with the increase, the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program (MTCP) launched a new campaign to distribute a free two-week supply of nicotine patches to people who call the 1-800-TRY-TO-STOP quit-line. Here are the results, compared to last year: July 2007 calls to the Quit-line: 328 July 1-18, 2008 calls to the Quit-line: over 4000 An estimated 26,000 residents will attempt to quit smoking because of the dollar increase, and research shows that people who use medications like the patch are more than twice as likely to quit for... Read more »

FY09 Budget - First Read Edition

The conference report state budget was released Wednesday evening and the legislature will vote on the compromise plan Thursday (read the whole 258 pages here (pdf)). (As always, for the best overall evaluation of the budget, stalk the Mass Budget and Policy Center website for their instant analysis.) A closer read will turn up more things of interest, and some of the financing sections are tough to decipher without more careful study. We see no cuts in health programs' eligibility or benefits. We'll have more to come on issues relating to oral health, children's mental health, and other... Read more »

Public Health Council Discusses Domestic Violence

The Public Health Council (PHC) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday morning. Lynn Bethel, Director of the Office of Oral Health did not present as scheduled. Commissioner Auerbach explained Director Bethel will present at a later date so that she can incorporate some of the findings from the Oral Health Summit held in Sturbridge earlier in June into her presentation. Joan Gorga did a presentation on a proposal for enhanced standards for the DON Guidelines for Environmental Impact. The guidelines were released today for public comment and require that new DON projects meet certain... Read more »

MA in the Forefront of Smoking Bans

In 2004, there were three states that barred smoking in private sector workplaces, restaurants, and bars: Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York. Now other states are starting to catch up. In 2007, there were 11 such states: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. See: State Smoking Restrictions for Private-Sector Worksites, Restaurants, and Bars --- United States, 2004 and 2007, in this week's MMWR. Read more »

Save the Date! June 4th and 5th – Better Oral Health for MA

On June 4 & 5, oral health providers, advocates, and community leaders will convene at the Sturbridge Host Hotel for an important dialogue about oral health in Massachusetts. Oral health is a critical part of overall health; you can’t have a healthy body without a health mouth. Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, and is linked to a higher risk for heart disease and diabetes later in life. Dental disease contributes to more than 51 million missed school hours and 104 million missed work hours every year. Fortunately, dental disease is almost entirely preventable... Read more »

Senate To Take Up The Tax

On Tuesday, the Mass. Senate will be taking up tax legislation that includes a $1.00/pack increase in the cigarette tax. The bill passed the House in early April. HCFA and the ACT!! Coalition, working with Tobacco Free Mass, strongly support the proposed tobacco tax increase. As we've said before, tobacco taxes provide stable, predictable revenue, and also reduce smoking, particularly among teens. Some see this as a contradiction, an oxymoron. But there's no contradiction. Smoking levels do predictably decline - about a 4% drop for every 10% increase in the retail price. But the increase in... Read more »

House Budget - Day 3

After tackling Veterans Services, State Finance and Assistance, and Health and Human Services, the House took up Public Health programs late last night, and passed a consolidated amendment increasing funding for a number of important programs. Increases were included for environmental health, HIV, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy prevention. Funding for tobacco control programs was boosted by $1 million. An increase in the tobacco tax, such as the $1/pack increase passed by the House, leads to an increase in use of smoking cessation services. Tobacco prevention and cessation services... Read more »

House Opens Budget Debate

Yesterday the House began its debate on FY 2009 budget. With over 1500 amendments filed, the budget debate is expected to take most of this week. You can see the House budget and the filed amendments, summarized by topic, on the helpful House budget site. Last night’s topic was revenue-related amendments. We won victories as the House voted on two tobacco-related amendments. HCFA and the ACT!! coalition has been working with Tobacco Free Mass coalition on these issues. Read more »


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