Friday, October 11, 2013


It's been a big month for the Affordable Care Act.

On the plus side, millions of people are flocking to the Web to use new health insurance marketplaces, which means more Americans will soon have access to life-saving preventive care as well as protection from medical bankruptcy. That's a really big deal. On the not-so-plus side, some congressional lawmakers actually forced a government shutdown over implementation of the ACA, which means the fight for affordable health care is far from over. (Not to mention that the shutdown has meant the shuttering of essential public health services — and here's just one example of what happens when the doors to public health are closed.)

Right now, public health folks have a big role in collecting the data and telling the stories that illustrate the positive difference that the ACA is making and will make in people's lives. (And in true public health fashion, we also have a duty to point out its gaps and call for improvements.) The health reform law is transforming the health care landscape, and its landmark Prevention and Public Health Fund is already doing the same for community health.

So it's no surprise that the ACA will be a popular topic at this year's APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition. In fact, a quick search of the online program or a skim through our supplemental program guide to health reform sessions finds that if you have a passion for health reform, there will soon be no better place to be than the APHA Annual Meeting. Here are just a few of the ACA-related offerings you'll find in Boston:

• On Monday, Nov. 4, researchers will discuss the challenges of tobacco use prevention in an era of health reform.

• What the ACA means for people living with disabilities will be the focus of this presentation on Monday, Nov. 4.

• U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh will present on Monday, Nov. 4, on a key social determinant of health — high school graduation — and the relationship to the ACA.

• This presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 5, will explore the effects of language barriers on enrollment in the ACA-driven Medicaid expansion and state-based health insurance exchange in California.

• Some people may be left out of the ACA's benefits, and this presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 5, will discuss one group at risk: farmworkers and their families.

• Also on Tuesday, Nov. 5, researchers will explore racial and ethnic disparities in the ACA's coverage.

• Two other Tuesday sessions include this one on "ACA navigators and assistors: Opportunities for public health" and this one on "Public health system transformation under the Affordable Care Act."

• And on Wednesday, Nov. 6, John Auerbach, former public health commissioner for Massachusetts, will discuss the role of state public health associations in implementing the ACA.

To start filling out your personal Annual Meeting schedule with ACA offerings, visit the online program or download the app and search for the Affordable Care Act. Or use our handy program guide to health reform sessions to point you in the right direction.

— K.K.

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