AzPHA Developing Resolution on Cell Phone Use while Driving

 SB 1080 kicks into action next week… and Arizona will finally join the 47 other states that have laws on the books restricting the use of smart phones while driving.  It’ll ban brand-new teen drivers from using their smart phone while driving for the first 6 months of their license (if they’re under 18).  Using the phone in an emergency will still be OK.  Tickets can only be issued if the driver committed another violation.  Prior to this, the only other limitation in AZ to this kind of distraction applied to school bus drivers. 

We supported SB 1080 because of the evidence that this would be an effective public health intervention.  Data in this NHTSA summary document that shows that teens are the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes and have the highest prevalence of cell phone use while driving.  A 2003 study of US crash data called Driver distraction and crashes: An assessment of crash databases and review of the literature found that driver distraction is a contributing factor in 8% to 13% of crashes including cell phone distractions of between 1.5 to 5%.

Between now and our Fall Conference & Annual Meeting on September 28, our Public Health Policy Committee will be discussing proposing a member Resolution at the Conference that will urge Arizona lawmakers to go further and put in place a law restricting the use of cell phones while driving for all ages of drivers- not just minors in their 1st 6 months of driving.

The Governor in his signing statement for SB 1080 suggested he might be supportive of extending the restrictions to all minors (not just minors in their 1st 6 months of driving).  In part, the signing statement said:

“…Distracted driving is a growing problem in Arizona and nationally. I generally believe that public awareness and education campaigns are a more effective remedy to prevent accidents and save lives than blanket laws that let politicians feel like they’ve checked the box, and then move on to the next issue. For that reason, I am skeptical of large-scale bans on texting while driving — I just don’t think they work. But this bill is different. The state already regulates a number of things when it comes to early driving by teens. And for good reason. For our youth, these laws can act as a teacher. In fact, I’d be in favor of a law that goes further, banning texting while driving for all minors.  Driving is a privilege for our youth, and they are still the responsibility of their parents, financially and otherwise, before the age of 18.”

This signing statement suggest that we have some executive branch support for extending the restrictions to at least all drivers under 18.  Not the full intervention (restrictions for all ages) as is in the case in most other states, but a start.

AzPHA Thanks Senator McCain

July 28, 2017


The Honorable John McCain

RE: Thank You


Dear Senator McCain:

I write on behalf of myself and the membership and Board of the Arizona Public Health Association (AzPHA) to thank you for your statesmanship.

Throughout the debate in the U.S. Senate regarding the repeal and replacement of the Patient Portability and Affordable Care Act you have been the voice of reason and a primary advocate for ensuring that this important policy decision includes a cross section of perspectives. 

Your commitment to that principle is a testament to your fidelity toward developing public policy that will work for the people of Arizona.

Thank you for your service to the people of Arizona and for your unwavering commitment the United States of America.



Will Humble, MPH

Executive Director,

Arizona Public Health Association

Annual Meeting Health Policy Forecast & Health Care Reform Comes Down to the Wire this Week

Those of you that have attended our AzPHA Fall Conferences know we also have our all members Annual Meeting at the Conference.  One of the things we do at the Annual Meeting is summarize our advocacy efforts over the last year- and get some guidance from members regarding where we should focus our public health policy advocacy in the coming year.

One way we do that is to propose Resolutions for our members to ratify.  For example, at last year’s meeting we approved Resolutions in support of voluntary certification of Community Health Workers and full dental coverage for Medicaid members during their pregnancy.  Those Resolutions helped to drive the direction of our advocacy efforts last year (and in the coming legislative year).

This year we’re exploring resolutions for: 1) passing a state law to restrict the sale of tobacco to people at least 21 years old; 2) additional limitations on distracted driving (e.g. texting & driving); and 3) a statewide requirement regarding recess and time for physical activity in elementary schools. 

I’ll devote the rest of this update to the evidence for moving to a “21” standard for buying tobacco products. I’ll cover the others in later policy updates.

In a nutshell, the rationale for moving the purchase of tobacco to 21 from the current 18 has its roots in human biology. People that start smoking before 21 are much more likely to be a lifetime smoker because their (still developing) brain gets hard-wired to the craving for nicotine.  The intervention is basically designed to push back the start date for smoking so we create fewer lifetime smokers.

There’s a host of evidence to support this policy initiative in a new report from the Institute of Medicine (it’s available for free on the  Institute of Medicine’s website).  The report thoroughly evaluates the evidence base and concludes that… “Increasing the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products will prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults, particularly those ages 15 to 17, and improve the health of Americans across the lifespan”.  The report also quantifies the immediate and long term accompanying public health outcome improvements. 

What about the FDA, can’t they do this at the national level?  Basically no, not under existing federal law and regulations. 

While Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 granted the FDA broad authority over tobacco products (including issuing regulations to restrict tobacco retail sales to kids and to restrict tobacco product advertising and marketing to youth) the Act prohibits the FDA from establishing a minimum tobacco sale age to people over 18.  States, however, have the authority to raise the minimum purchase age on their own.   

Several jurisdictions have done it already. New York City raised the age to 21, in 2013.  Hawaii did it in 2015, becoming the first state to go to the 21 (the Hawaii Public Health Association was instrumental in that effort). California followed suit in 2016, and New Jersey’s Governor signed a bill last week that will move the tobacco purchase age to 21.  A bill that raises the minimum age to 21 in Oregon is awaiting the signature of their governor.

In Arizona, Douglas and Cottonwood have passed local ordinances restricting the sale of tobacco to people 21 and older.

We hope to see you all at the Fall Conference and Annual Meeting on September 28 entitled: Arizona’s Opioid Epidemic: Evidence – Interventions – Policy.  We’ll be proposing the smoking age resolution at the Annual Meeting of our members. 

We expect to have our registration website up and running on later this week.


Healthcare Debate Factoids

We’re continuing to hear that the US Senate will vote on a Motion to Proceed on a bill that would eventually “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act as early as Tuesday afternoon.  Lots of confusion remains on which bill they’ll be voting to proceed on. 

While there are differences in the various Bills that have been floated in the Senate, every one so far would make big reductions to Medicaid funding, deprive millions of people of health insurance, and remove consumer protections while providing tax breaks to corporations and high-income households.

Thus far, all the Democrats in the Senate have been holding firm with their opposition to these bills as well as a handful of Republicans.  The President, Senate leadership and groups that want to repeal the ACA are putting pressure on Senators Capito (R-WV), Heller (R-NV), Murkowski (R-AK) and other targets to vote yes on the Motion to Proceed vote. This week will be very important for access to care! 

In an informal ruling last week, the Senate parliamentarian (an appointed person named Elizabeth MacDonough) ruled that certain provisions in one of the Senate Bill drafts doesn’t comply with the reconciliation rules- (meaning that those provisions would need 60 votes rather than 51)…. including defunding Planned Parenthood and restricting the use of tax credits for plans that cover abortion. More Senate Parliamentarian rulings are to follow, including the ‘Consumer Freedom’ amendment authored by Sen. Cruz (R-TX).

The Value of Prevention: The Prevention & Public Health Fund in Action

The U.S. spends far more on medical care than any other nation, yet ranks 26th in life expectancy.  That’s partly because we tend to focus on treating illnesses rather than preventing them in the first place.  Basically, we’re not adhering to wise advice that “a stitch in time saves nine”.

More than 85% of the health care costs in the U.S. are from preventable chronic conditions, yet only 3% of our health care spending is focused on prevention and public health – the key factors that prevent chronic medical conditions before they start. It’s essential that we do a more effective job preventing costly chronic medical conditions to reduce health care costs.

The Affordable Care Act included several initiatives designed to reduce health care costs. One important component was the creation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides federal, state and local public health resources to reduce long-term health costs. The fund focuses on preventing expensive chronic medical conditions by providing expanded and sustained national investment in public health programs that improve health and restrain the rate of growth in health care costs.

This investment in public health infrastructure to reduce costs is evidence-based. Research suggests that funding for community-based public health has a 5.6 to 1 return on investment. In other words, every dollar invested in evidence-based prevention programs results in a $5.6 in savings in overall health care costs.

Over the last several years, the fund has been used to support an array of evidence-based community prevention and clinical prevention programs that bolster public health infrastructure and workforce and expand public health research and tracking efforts that reduce health care costs. Resources go to programs at the local, state and federal levels to: a) better detect and respond to disease threats; b) increase vaccination rates; c) fight obesity; d) curb tobacco use; and e) increase access to preventive care services.

The fund also provides state and local resources to fight numerous health threats. Vaccination programs supported by the fund ensure access to vaccines that protect the most vulnerable among us from routine diseases like influenza and provide community-based immunity to prevent the widespread circulation of diseases like mumps and measles. The fund supports the ability to track emerging infectious disease outbreaks like Zika or Ebola, as well as foodborne illnesses.

Arizona public health jurisdictions have received more than $52.6 million through the Prevention & Public Health Fund since 2010. This $9.3 million annual investment is at work in Arizona, providing critical resources that support evidence-based, community prevention activities tailored to meet community health needs and preferences.

Evidence-based PPHF investments in Arizona include:

• Prescription painkiller (Opiate) and heroin use prevention;

• Health security funds for bioterrorism, disease outbreaks, and disasters;

• Building immunization services to prevent serious infectious disease outbreaks;

• Promoting better detection and response to disease threats;

• Lead poisoning prevention;

• Reducing tobacco use; and

• Reducing diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Astonishingly, the US House of Representative’s “American Health Care Act”, all introduced versions of the US Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (and Amendments), and the President’s proposed budget would eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund.  

We’re urging our elected representatives in congress and their staff to reflect on the impact that Prevention and Public Health Fund resources are having in Arizona as they consider options for reforming the U.S healthcare system.  Arizona’s public health infrastructure is already stretched thin because of limited state and local investment in public health. Further reductions in capacity by reducing or eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund would impair Arizona’s ability to bend the health care cost curve as well as impair its ability to respond to infectious diseases, the opioid crisis, and preventable diseases and chronic conditions.

The Arizona Public Health Association partnered with the Vitalyst Foundation to develop a report that outlines the progress that Arizona is making using existing prevention and Public Health Fund resources. 

The report, entitled The Value of Prevention: How the Prevention and Public Health Fund Invests in Arizona’s Health is geared to inform policy makers and other stakeholders of the potential implications related to eliminating or restructuring the Prevention and Public Health Fund.  The report is also posted on our AzPHA home page at

Please take a gander and forward the report to folks that might be interested- especially people and organizations that you know that may be able to influence the outcome of this enormously important national debate about the future of health care and public health in our country.


“Our Lives on the Line”, Arizona” Rally and Press Event

More than a dozen groups have joined forces to lead a national “day of action” against the plan to drastically cut back Medicaid and public health resources as part of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The rally and press event in Arizona is one of many being held simultaneously in numerous other cities around the country that day.

“Our Lives On the Line, Arizona” event — including a flagship rally in Washington — will set the tone for several weeks of action to persuade key lawmakers to focus on evidence-based solutions that will improve health outcomes as they debate changes to the Affordable Care Act  Here’s where you can register for the Arizona event    



Saturday, July 29, 2017 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AZ Time


Our Lives on the Line


Parsons’s Center for Health and Wellness – Southwest Center for HIV/AIDs (Phoenix, AZ)

1101 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85004

    Senate Releases 3rd Crack at the “Better Care Reconciliation Act”

    There were 2 important actions this week regarding public health & access to care.  The U.S. Senate released their 3rd version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) and House released their Health and Human Services and Appropriations bill for next fiscal year

    Let’s start with BCRA.

    The Senate released it’s new version of BCRA this week (PDF) but it still hasn’t been evaluated by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office…  so we won’t know the particulars of what the new version would likely do to insurance coverage and premiums until that evaluation is complete (probably next week). 

    We do know that many things are the same as the previous version of the bill- especially when it comes to the troubling changes that would be made to Medicaid:  

    • Like the previous version of BCRA, the new bill would still convert federal Medicaid funding to a per capita allotment (or a block grant) and limit growth in federal Medicaid spending beginning in 2020. Medicaid funding per person would go up with the Medical Consumer Price Index from 2020 – 2024 and by just the regular Consumer Price Index after that- which will likely serve to dramatically cut back Medicaid funding.

    • Phases out the enhanced federal contribution for the expansion population in states like AZ from 90% in 2020 to regular state match in 2024.  That means that somewhere between 2020 and 2024 Arizona would drop the expansion population from Medicaid coverage (people from 100% to 138% of FPL).

    • Marketplace plan premium tax credits would be available down to 100% of FPL in 2020 (because those folks between 100 and 138% of poverty won’t be enrolled in Medicaid anymore).

    • Eliminates the individual mandate for everybody to have health insurance.

    • Eliminates the requirement that larger employers provide health insurance.

    • Would let insurers sell currently “non-compliant” insurance plans – meaning insurance plans with very high deductibles and limited benefits (people that buy these catastrophic plans would be eligible for a tax credit). This would serve to reduce premiums (and benefits) for people that elect these plans- but it would shrink the risk pool for people that want more robust (compliant) plans- meaning that premiums for the more comprehensive plans will go up alot.

    • Repeals the mandate to have health insurance and eliminates cost sharing subsidies in 2020.

    • Completely eliminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund in FY19, which is used by every state to support vital public health programs that promote health, prevent disease, and allow for rapid response to emerging public health threats.


    The House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee released their FY18 appropriations bill this week too. Here’s a summary of the funding proposals included in the bill:

    The bill decreases the US Department of Health and Human Services’ budget by $542M below last year’s level.  It reduces CDC’s budget by almost $200M , which includes $840M in transfers from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (eliminating the fund).  Many if not most of these budget cuts would roll down to state and local health departments.

    The bill reduces HRSA funding by about $400M (to $5.8B) including a complete elimination of all Title X Family Planning Funds ($300M).


    We’re encouraging AzPHA members to send messages to our Senators urging them to focus on supporting a Senate bill that: 1) protects future funding for Medicaid; 2) allows folks with pre-existing conditions to be able to continue to have access to affordable health insurance; and 3) protects the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

    Senator Jeff Flake
    Russell Office Building 413
    Washington, D.C. 20510
    (202) 224-4521
    Twitter: @JeffFlake

    Senator John McCain
    Russell Office Building 218
    Washington, DC 20510
    (202) 224-2235
    Twitter: @SenJohnMcCain