This year's Healthcare Summit featured several sessions addressing obesity and health related complications related to obesity. This topic is a growing concern for both legislators and healthcare professionals alike who face a growing epidemic of diabetes and heart disease in the United States. Scott Kahan, MD, MPH and Director of Strategies To Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance gave a great and interactive presentation reveling how very few states provide obesity-related services in essential preventative healthcare programs today. Dr. Kahan revealed that currently 0 states offer Medicaid Coverage of Obesity Treatment Disease Management for all obesity-related disease management CPT codes and only12 states cover obesity medication, generally with restrictions and prior authorization. His final takeaways focused on understanding Obesity as a disease no different from any other chronic, behavior-related health condition and that prevention and intervention treatment works, but stakeholders need to think long term and innovate solutions that open doors to care and health professional training.
In addition to Dr. Kahan’s presentation, the Healthcare Summit also featured a session on childhood obesity. Dr. Kristen Welker- Hood of Leadership for Healthy Communities lead this session which focused on strategies for creating healthier schools and communities nationwide. Importantly, obesity among children varies by race. As of 2012, 20 percent of African American children were obese, 22 percent of Latino children, and 14 percent of European American children ages 2 to 19 are obese. Some of Dr. Welker-Hood’s practical tips for moving forward on childhood obesity policy, included, ensuring your community has public park land set aside where children can be active, reaching high-risk populations and Promoting access to nutritious foods, and addressing childhood obesity at all ages and grade levels alongside optimizing out-of-school tome with active programs.
Another topic of importance that arose in several sessions at this year’s Healthcare Summit was mental health. In the session Access to Care: Mental Health , leaders from both the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) focused on common utilization management practices that prevent patients from accessing needed medications, including antidepressants and antipsychotics. Key factors inhibiting access to medications include a limited number of healthcare providers, and empowering physicians to be the final deciders of treatment options. Some progress has been made in recent years regarding mental health policy. The Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 (S. 153/H.R. 274), authorizes $20 million in grants to fund Mental Health First Aid training programs around the country, continues to gain co-sponsors. Also in In July of 2013, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) added Mental Health First Aid to its National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and collaborated with the National Council and its partnering organizations to increase the reach of the program.
Sita Diehl, Director of State Policy and Advocacy for NAMI gave an emotional and personal talk about mental illness in her own family. By comparing the success story of her son, who received proper testing and medication with her nephew, who did not receive needed medication in time, Ms. Diehl, highlighted the importance of access to mental healthcare services. By ensuring early diagnosis, intervention, and medication, Ms. Diehl cited that people can be productive citizens who contribute their valuable talents and time to the community.
The Fifth Annual Healthcare Summit was a success where legislators, field area experts, and mutual stakeholders could come together to discuss pertinent topics and lay the ground work for beginning to solve some of the healthcare challenges we face in our nation today. To learn more and see a complete list of summit presentations click here.