Tennessee ranks in the bottom five of almost every national health ranking. We must do better, but our legislature is wasting time treating health reform like a political football. It’s time for us to implement insurance reform in a way that will work for Tennessee families, to expand preventative care for children and adults, and to focus on public health issues such as childhood obesity, access to fresh foods, and diabetes prevention.
Health Care Reform: With the passage of federal health reform, Tennessee faces the combined challenges of increasing access to care, improving health outcomes, and cutting costs. Unfortunately, the legislature has been wasting its time on political gimmicks like suing the federal government to block the legislation. It is imperative that we turn to the necessary work of implementing health reform in a way that works for Tennessee families, patients, and providers. Nashville is uniquely positioned to be a leader on health care, both on a business and governmental level. Instead of playing catch-up to other states, Tennessee must utilize its position to break ground in terms of health and health care, addressing issues like long term care through home and community-based methods, adopting electronic health records, and utilizing the most cutting-edge preventative-care measures. If our legislators pursued goals like these instead of their own political agendas, our citizens and businesses could both reap the rewards of living in the nation’s health care capital.
Public Health: Tennessee will never make the progress we so desperately need without improving health. One in four Tennesseans smokes, one in three is obese, and one in ten has Type II diabetes. We must develop community and work-site based wellness initiatives to provide greater access to health information, screenings, vaccinations, and immunization.
Preventative Care: It is critical that we provide incentives for medical professionals to enter primary care and that we expand access and utilization of preventative care for children and adults.
Children’s Health: It is also critical that our General Assembly address the health crisis facing Tennessee’s children. Currently, Tennessee ranks 48th in infant mortality and in the general health of our children. As the father of a 19-month-old son, Jeff knows we can and should do better. Many people are looking back at this legislative session and remarking on how great a victory it was that we were able to stop infant mortality programs from being cut from our budget. While this is certainly worth celebrating, it is a sad sign of where our legislature is that protecting programs aimed at keeping infants alive at a higher rate than that of a developing country can be considered a victory. Our children deserve far better.