The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a legislative hearing on June 24 that discussed the need to utilize data to advance health equity.
The hearing, “Empowered by Data: Legislation to Advance Equity and Public Health,” discussed the Social Determinants Accelerator Act (SDAA, H.R. 2503) and the Tracking COVID–19 Variants Act (H.R. 791), both of which the AAMC has endorsed [refer to Washington Highlights, April 23 and Feb. 12]. Additionally, the Subcommittee considered the Data to Save Moms Act (H.R. 925) and the Social Determinants for Moms Act (H.R. 943), which are part of the AAMC-supported Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (H.R. 959) [refer to Washington Highlights, Feb. 12].
Witnesses discussed the need to standardize data, create data sharing agreements, utilize data to address social determinants on health, and the role data plays in the doctor-patient relationship for underrepresented and rural patients.
In her opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) noted, “Public health data is a critical tool for state and local health officials in their efforts to address the social determinants that perpetuate the inequities in our communities.” Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) added, “COVID-19 shed light on the need for more public health data infrastructure, and we must use lessons learned to prepare for future pandemics.”
In her testimony, Karen DeSalvo, MD, the chief health officer at Google, discussed the importance of public-private partnerships. She noted, “Expanding the practice of public health requires support from every sector of society. COVID-19 has highlighted the value of public-private partnerships, and we must build on these new ways of working to rethink the operating model for governmental public health.”
Dr. DeSalvo also discussed Google’s work with academic medicine, highlighting their “partnership with Morehouse [School of Medicine] on how health equity could be broadened to address disparities beyond COVID-19, while Google’s support for tracking viral variants through Global.health could help map mutations and drug-resistance for other infectious diseases.”
Beth Blauer, the executive director of the Johns Hopkins University Centers for Civic Impact, discussed the need for standardized data across demographics. She said, “This information would inform policy decisions of city and county leaders by more accurately identifying hotspots, opportunities to invest in public health assets, and track disease outbreaks in near real-time.”
Reps. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), and Kurt Shrader (D-Ore.) all highlighted their support for the SDAA, specifically the need to establish an interagency council to address social determinants of health such as housing, food insecurity, and transportation access.
Additionally, Rep. Kelly, as well as Reps. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) discussed the need to collect data pertaining to maternal health and how this data could help address the health of mothers and future health outcomes of their children.