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July 10, 2020

Reps. Trone, Cox Introduce “AHEAD”: the Assimilating Health and Equity Assessments into Decision-making Act



Reps. Trone, Cox Introduce “AHEAD”: the Assimilating Health and Equity Assessments into Decision-making Act 

Health Impact Assessments Mean Smarter Policymaking 


Today, Reps. David Trone (MD-6) and TJ Cox (CA-21) introduced H.R. 7510, the Assimilating Health and Equity Assessments into Decision-making (AHEAD) Act, to solve population health challenges. Original co-sponsors of the legislation are Terri Sewell (AL-7), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Eliot Engel (NY-16), and Katie Porter (CA-45). The bill’s goal is to study the use of tools that assess a policy’s impact on population health and well-being. 

The bill encourages the use of Health Impact Assessments and other tools focused on identifying the root causes of poor health through social determinants of health, including education, safe environments, housing, transportation, economic development, and access to nutritious foods. It emphasizes the importance of preventative health solutions for future cost-savings. 

“Right now, we are dealing with multiple health crises at once, from COVID-19 to mental health and the opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Trone. “To make matters worse, many of these conditions are preventable. It’s time that we have a full understanding of how policy changes impact public health so we can create a healthier society and save lives. The AHEAD Act will allow us to do just that.” 

“Many health problems, like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, are preventable. Nevertheless, they lead to billions of dollars and thousands of deaths every single year,” said Rep. Cox. “I’m always looking for ways to improve the health of our nation. That’s why I introduced the AHEAD Act, to make sure that Congress has the high-quality information we need to make better decisions about policies and save American taxpayer money.”   

“COVID-19 has shone a light on some of the most devastating inequalities in our nation — health disparities, especially. Every single American deserves equal opportunity, education and health care, and we must commit to doing better,” Rep. Sewell said. “The AHEAD Act will help inform data-based policy making that is most effective in improving social determinants of health and disparities in health care delivery across the country.” 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought national attention to the multitude of social and economic impacts of healthcare disparities in our communities. We must ensure that federal, state, and local policies in all areas – including housing, transportation, education, and nutrition – address these healthcare disparities,” said Rep. Brownley. “I appreciate Congressman Cox’s leadership in introducing the AHEAD Act, which will help lawmakers utilize Health Impact Assessments to improve policy-making.” 

“In the midst of a public health crisis, it is critical that Congress has the information we need to craft evidence-based health policy,” Rep. Porter said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues today in introducing the AHEAD Act, which helps bring the expertise of health professionals, the opinions of community members, and the latest scientific data to the decision making table.” 

“I am thrilled that Rep. Cox wants to make sure that health, equity, and evidence are central in the policy process,” said Dr. Keshia Pollack Porter, professor and associate dean for faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This bill emphasizes the need to study how to optimally include health and equity considerations in policy decisions across multiple sectors, such as criminal justice, transportation, education, and housing.”    

Other countries, states, financial institutions, and major industries such as oil, gas, and mining use Health Impact Assessments to improve health, control costs, and build community trust. These assessments bring together public health expertise, scientific data, and community input. Coordinating these stakeholders helps consider the potential health benefits and consequences of a policy before it becomes law.  

Recently, interest in using Health Impact Assessments to predict the impacts of COVID-19 response strategies is growing. This bill will direct the Department of Health and Human Services to commission the National Academies to study how to incorporate health impact assessments and other timely, evidence-based analysis tools into our federal policymaking process.    

Read the full bill text here