Sample Questions for Public Forums

Our goal as public health advocates is to speak for health and demonstrate the importance of public health in our communities around the nation. These sample questions, which can help start conversations about public health issues with policymakers at the federal, state and local levels, cover some of APHA’s advocacy priorities:

The questions should be tailored to highlight local issues by providing local examples, your area of interest or expertise and concerns.

The lists provided with certain questions are not exhaustive. Pick examples relevant to you and your community.

PUBLIC HEALTH FUNDING

1. I am concerned about the future of our state and local public health workforce because of the vital services they provide in our state and communities. These services include (Fill in with relevant services for your community — see list below for examples). Are you familiar with the public health programs that are funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration in (name of community/city/state)? Will you pledge to support increased funding for these agencies and programs and oppose any future efforts to restrain or cut this important funding?

a. Infectious disease detection and prevention
b. Chronic disease prevention activities
c. Public health workers including personnel at state and local health departments
d. Public health laboratories
e. Safety net for uninsured/assuring access to care
f. Cancer screening
g. Vaccine delivery programs
h. Tobacco prevention programs
i. Protecting the public from environmental toxins and other exposures
j. Food safety
k. Maternal and child health programs

2. Earlier this summer, the House of Representatives passed its version of the FY 2022 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill that contains important increases for public health. The bill would provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with an additional $2.7 billion, and $1.6 billion in additional funding for the Health Resources and Services Administration. These agencies provide funding for programs like (Fill in with relevant programs for your community — see list below for examples). How can we reduce the economic and health-related costs of chronic and communicable disease and injuries when our nation is not investing in programs that prevent and treat these problems? Will you commit to working with your House and Senate colleagues to support vital increased funding for CDC and HRSA as Congress works to finalize the FY 2022 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill?

a. Infectious disease detection and prevention
b. Chronic disease prevention activities
c. Public health workers including personnel at state and local health departments
d. Public health laboratories
e. Safety net for uninsured/assuring access to care
f. Cancer screening
g. Vaccine delivery programs
h. Tobacco prevention programs

3. Our public health system and workforce is the first line of defense against the health threats that American communities face every day, yet the nation's public health infrastructure has long been underfunded. Local health departments have lost 21% of their workforce since 2008 and state health agencies lost nearly 10% of full-time staff since 2012. Chronic under funding of public health continues to threaten the ability of the public health workforce to fight ongoing public health threats and the harm is even more clear in the face of new and emerging threats such as COVID-19.

The Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act would establish a Core Public Health Infrastructure Program at CDC to award grants to state, local, Tribal and territorial health to ensure they have the cross-cutting capabilities, tools and trained workforce to address existing and emerging health threats while also combating existing health disparities. Can I count on your support for including this important legislation in future jobs and infrastructure legislation considered by Congress?

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

1. The Affordable Care Act has helped millions of people gain affordable health coverage and is helping to shift our health care system from one that focuses on treating the sick to one that focuses on keeping people healthy. Unfortunately, in the past the ACA has come under attack by some in Congress, and there have been multiple attempts to repeal the law. Fortunately, earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed, the American Rescue Plan Act which included important provisions to expand access to health insurance coverage, making it more accessible and affordable by enhancing premium tax credits for plans in the Affordable Care Act marketplace for 2021 and 2022. Will you pledge to work to further extend these important credits that are making health insurance more affordable for millions of individuals and families in the United States?

2. Will you commit to working with your colleagues in a bipartisan manner to oppose any future efforts to weaken or repeal the Affordable Care Act and to support efforts to strengthen and expand the ACA to cover more of the nation’s uninsured population?

PREVENTION AND PUBLIC HEALTH FUND

1. It’s been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The Prevention and Public Health Fund provides much-needed mandatory funding for programs at the local, state and federal levels to fight obesity, curb tobacco use, increase immunization rates, prevent childhood lead poisoning, increase access to preventive care services and help state and local governments respond to public health threats and outbreaks. Do you support maintaining funding for the prevention fund?

2. The Prevention and Public Health Fund was designed to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life and has funded important programs to (Fill in with relevant examples — see list below for some options). Unfortunately, in the past Congress has passed legislation to cut or redirect the fund for unintended purposes – preventing the fund from growing to its originally intended level. Protecting the prevention fund from further cuts is essential to ensuring a strong and healthy nation by improving the public’s health and restraining the rate of growth in health care costs. Can I count on you take action to protect this important fund now and in the future?

a. Promote tobacco-free living
b. Encourage healthy eating
c. Prevent childhood lead poisoning
d. Detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks
e. Expand access to breast and cervical cancer screenings
f. Prevent suicide
g. Increase child immunization rates
h. Prevent falls among older adults and adults with disabilities

3. I strongly support H.R. 1583/S. 571, the Public Health Funding Prevents Pandemics Act, a bill that will restore funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund to its originally intended level beginning in FY 2021. Support for the prevention fund will help expand and strengthen critical prevention and public health activities that improve our nation’s health and help reduce health care costs. Can I count on you to cosponsor and support this legislation to restore this much needed public health funding?

CLIMATE CHANGE AND HEALTH

1. The fourth National Climate Assessment details the health impacts of climate change in the United States and notes, “The health and well-being of Americans are already affected by climate change, with the adverse health consequences projected to worsen with additional climate change. Climate change affects human health by altering exposures to heat waves, floods, droughts, and other extreme events; vector-borne, food-borne and water-borne infectious diseases; changes in the quality and safety of air, food, and water; and stresses to mental health and well-being.” Will you heed this clear scientific evidence and pledge to work with your colleagues to take steps now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change and harm health?

2. The responsibility to protect the public from the health threats of climate change will fall largely our nation’s state, local, territorial and tribal health departments. We need to invest additional resources in programs like CDC’s Climate and Health Program, which provides resources to health departments to prepare for and respond to the specific health impacts of climate change that threaten their communities. Will you support the $110 million provided for the program in the House FY 2022 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill so that CDC can fund every state to develop plans to protect all of their communities from the health threats posed by climate change?

3. H.R. 3271/S. 1702, the Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act, would help our nation address the serious health threats associated with climate change. The bill would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a national strategic action plan for addressing the public health impacts of climate change. The bill would enhance forecasting and modeling, track environmental and disease data and expand the science base to better understand the relationship between climate change and health outcomes. Importantly, the legislation would prioritize activities to address the health impacts of climate change, including preparedness planning, surveillance, education and training in order to ensure that our already-overburdened state and local public health workforce can adequately address the health impacts of climate change while continuing to respond to other ongoing threats and challenges. Will you co-sponsor and support this important public health legislation?

GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION

1. Last year, in the final FY 2021 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, Congress provided funding of $12.5 million each for CDC and the National Institutes of Health to conduct firearm injury and mortality prevention research. This year, the FY 2022 House Labor-HHS-Education bill would double this funding and provide each agency with $25 million, for a total of $50 million, for this critical research. Can I count on your support for continued and increased funding for these agencies to conduct gun violence prevention research in FY 2022?

2. Gun violence is one of the nation’s leading preventable causes of death. In 2019, 39,9707 individuals died as a result of gun violence, and thousands more suffered nonfatal injuries. After years of delay, it is time for Congress to act and take a comprehensive public health approach to addressing this growing crisis. Current law, which only requires background checks for guns purchased from federally licensed dealers, is inadequate and contains significant gaps that provide easy access to weapons for felons, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill and others prohibited from owning firearms. I support H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, that would require a federal background check for all gun purchases, including those at gun shows, on the internet and through classified ads. Can I count on your support for this important legislation?

HEALTH EQUITY AND RACIAL EQUITY

1. Health inequities are the uneven distribution of social and economic resources that impact an individual’s health. Addressing social determinants of health, such as housing, nutrition and employment, can have major impacts on reducing health inequities and improving community health. The Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2021 (S. 104/H.R. 379) would create a new Social Determinants of Health program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This new program would coordinate across CDC to ensure that existing programs work together to eliminate silos and address determinants. The bill would also make funding available to award grants for research on social determinants of health best practices and to address social determinants of health in target communities. Can I count on you to support this essential legislation to address health inequity?

2. Maternal mortality is an ongoing public health crisis that affects all American women and pregnant people, but the situation is especially dire for Black women and other women of color; research shows that Black, Native American and Hispanic moms all face much higher rates of maternal mortality than white moms. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 (S. 346/H.R. 959) would build on existing progress made in maternal health with provisions that would invest in social determinants of health, grow and support the perinatal workforce, improve data collection and promote maternal vaccination. Will you commit to supporting this bill and other efforts to combat maternal mortality and protect moms?