Asst. Secretary of Health’s Thoughts

Admiral Rachel Levine MD, as the newly appointed Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS,  https://hhs.gov/ash/index.html, provides public health, medical, and scientific advise to the HHS Secretary.

Sarah Dash President and CEO for the Alliance for Health Policy conducted a media briefing with Admiral Levine on serious physical and mental health issues existing in today’s world.

Admiral Levine oversees Minority Health, Infectious Health Disease and HIV Policy and Population Affairs along with Research Protection. She is head of the U.S Public Health Service Commissioned Corps which includes 6,000 officers.

The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is one of eight uniformed services working in different places and deployed when needed. The Corp is dedicated solely to protecting, promoting, and advancing public health especially in underserved and vulnerable populations.

The Corps assist with three priorities such as COVID-19, the distribution and administration of vaccines which now includes children, addresses health equity by making recommendations to the Health Disparities Task Force on topics such as dealing with drug overdoses.

Admiral Levine continues to report that there has been a startling rise in drug overdoses. To deal with substance abuse, efforts must be made to deal with prevention and harm reduction by developing effective treatments to ensue complete recovery.

As a result of the pandemic, 95,000 people died from overdoses in a 12 month period. As a result, Admiral Levine said, “There are four pillars related to an effective overdose strategy. First, take prevention actions, work with the medical community to carefully dispense drugs, develop effective treatments and medications, and help people with their recovery.

One particular issue of concern involves worldwide climate change which can greatly affect the health of the world’s population. As reported, An Office devoted to Climate Change and Equity has been established. The goal is to tailor solutions to hospitals, nursing homes but at the same time, effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

She explained that this is the first time health equity issues have been included in the climate change discussion at the national level. It is important to discuss the impact climate change can have on the rising sea level since more severe weather can result in flooding and fires, but also discuss how climate change can affect the spread of infectious diseases. To deal with climate change, the hospital’s role is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also regulations need to be tailored to health systems.

Since it is very important to work with the Indian Health Service (IHS), two offices have been established to address the importance of Indian Health Care and to effectively deal with health disparities in this community. The IHS sees many health disparities in the American Indian population especially with the high need to treat many COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

As Admiral Levine pointed out, public health training has to change since the pandemic has greatly affected public health. What is needed is the development of a robust workforce, further development of IT, funding for public health education, more training in mental health, more  pediatricians in the workforce, use Project ECHO to provide training in rural communities, provide for better public health leadership and advisors in the states, build a better data infrastructure as data is vital to use across HHS and the Administration, and provide more training on the effective use of telehealth.

Very importantly, further help is needed for the LGBTQ community which must include discussions on health equity and civil rights so discrimination against this community is eliminated. At the same time, it is vital to improve health equity especially related to housing and educational opportunities in the LGBTQ community.

Go to https://allhealthpolicy.org/a-conversation-with-admiral-rachel-levine-assistant-secretary-for-health for the video.

 

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