Our Take on the New Admin’s Agenda
Global health expert and Lehigh’s College of Health tenured associate professor, Dr. Eduardo J. Gómez, has focused his career on the roles that politics and policy play in explaining health outcomes. He is a highly respected global health authority and political scientist who is extremely interested and invested in President Biden’s administration’s health policies.
Gómez shared his thoughts on the new administration and some key initiatives he would like to see prioritized.
As President Biden’s administration hits the ground running, we are seeing new policies and proposals come to life. Of course, many of the initiatives being launched were previewed along the campaign trail. Now we are witnessing Biden’s agenda in action and starting to glean the impact it will have on the future of population health.
Prioritizing Population Health
The democratic system is built around checks and balances. Although President Biden is at the helm in the Oval Office, he does not have all the power. His job is to introduce ideas, bring people together for consensus and work with Congress to get legislation passed.
The COVID-19 crisis has become the ultimate example of how presidential policies influence population health. From the moment this administration took over, it has been writing the playbook to fight an invisible enemy and prevent the spread of the virus. President Biden—and even former presidents—have used their influence to encourage mask-wearing and tout the efficacy of the vaccine. This symbolic move and “practice what you preach” mentality has been critical to getting in front of the pandemic and putting population health at the forefront of national priorities.
The College of Health has also been instrumental in forecasting the impact of vaccines and new variants on the U.S. COVID trajectory. Thomas McAndrew, a computational scientist and assistant professor at the College of Health, and his team drafted a report that has supported public health officials, infectious disease modeling groups and the general public. The monumental report offered a consensus forecast that combined projections and provided more accurate data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Moving Beyond the Pandemic
Over the past year, the coronavirus has taken center stage from a policy standpoint. We can expect the virus to continue to be a focal point with an emphasis on minority communities and areas that have experienced widespread outbreaks. But there are other major health issues that the administration will most likely address and prioritize.
Other population health issues that Gómez would like to see the Biden administration act on include:
Prioritizing Climate Change
We have already seen the administration make strides on climate change by rejoining the international community’s efforts and accords. Gómez is pleased the U.S. is moving in the right direction regarding environmental issues and would like to see a focus on heat from air pollution, which is the root of many global climate and health issues.
Expanding Access to Healthcare
Strengthening and increasing healthcare care services—especially for minorities and the unemployed—is something Gómez thinks the Biden administration should stay laser-focused on.
Reinstating Healthy Cities Initiatives
Under the previous administration, health and nutrition in schools and cities was not a focus. Gómez thinks the Biden administration should recommit to these initiatives because the effects will impact other population health epidemics like obesity and diabetes as well as risk factors associated with immune system weakness.
Investing in Infrastructure & Parks
Gómez believes that the administration should ensure every American has access to safe recreational spaces for physical activity. He asserts that in order for the public to embrace a more active lifestyle, they need to be able to walk, exercise and be outside without the threat of violence or deteriorating parks and sidewalks.
The Biden administration faces never-before-seen challenges. It comes to leadership as the nation grapples with recovery from economic and civil unrest as well as a global pandemic. Many are ready to turn over a new leaf and embrace optimism for the health of the country. Only time will tell how this story unfolds but we are making great strides to a better, healthier tomorrow.
Learn more about Lehigh's College of Health and how we are creating the next generation of population health experts through research, curriculum and technological innovations here.