Monday, January 26, 2009

Experts Discuss State Programs To Fight Smoking, Obesity At Senate Hearing

“Experts on Thursday during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing discussed a number of state programs that have helped residents quit smoking, lose weight and improve their health, CQ HealthBeat reports. During the hearing, part of an ongoing series held by the committee to discuss efforts to improve the U.S. health care system, L. Allen Dobson, chair of North Carolina Community Care Networks, said that the state Community Care program, which provides Medicaid and SCHIP beneficiaries and other low-income residents with important parts of a medical home and community-based care management, has improved care for asthma, reduced hospitalizations by 35% and resulted in savings of more than $100 million annually since 2003. Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch (D) said that the Health Care Reform Act, a state law approved in May 2008 that seeks to expand health insurance to all eligible children by 2011, has led to the creation of medical homes, a statewide electronic health record system, and local and private-sector prevention programs. According to JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of Massachusetts' Health and Human Services, a state smoking cessation program that makes group or individual counseling and nicotine lozenges, patches and other medications available for Medicaid beneficiaries has helped more than 15,000 beneficiaries quit smoking since July 2006. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said that states should focus on smoking prevention efforts among teens, establish nutrition standards for school meals and promote physical activity to help prevent childhood obesity. Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said, ‘As we draft health reform legislation at the federal level, it is important that we capture the excellent ideas and practices that are being pioneered by the states and coordinat[e] our initiatives’ (Attias, CQ HealthBeat, 1/22).”

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