Food, Firearms, Fluoride, and More: A Sampling of Public Health Issues for the 2020 Legislative Session

Inside NHPHA: A Monthly Column Written by NHPHA Leadership

Food, Firearms, Fluoride, and More: A Sample of Public Health Issues for the 2020 Legislative Session

written by Joan H. Ascheim, MSN, Executive Director

The 2020 New Hampshire legislative session is upon us, and as usual things ramp up quickly. The New Hampshire Public Health Association will follow and testify on bills that address our three priority areas: Equity and Health Outcomes; Healthy Environments  Natural, Built and Social; and Substance Misuse  Improving Prevention, Treatment and Recovery. Here is a quick preview of some of the bills we are following.

Relative to Equity and Health Outcomes, we are focusing on bills concerned with food insecurity. HB 1638 seeks to make an appropriation for the SNAP program so that recipients can double their food dollar value when spending it on fresh foods and vegetables. HB 1679 provides an appropriation to expand the Meals on Wheels program that equates to approximately 75,000 additional meals for those in need. NHPHA supports both of these efforts to address food needs of some of our vulnerable populations. We are also tracking some bills relative to reducing food waste as a means to address the issue of hunger.

HB 1295 seeks to abolish fluoride from public water systems. As community fluoridation remains one of the top public health successes of our time, we will oppose such legislation.

HB 1459 brings back a bill from the last session relative to non-academic surveys at public schools and adds charter schools and provides for parents to opt out rather than opt in. Such surveys provide critical data for planning prevention services for youth.

HB 1655 seeks to expand the New Hampshire Vaccine Association to include adult vaccines. This allows for cost-effective purchasing of vaccines and the provision of them to providers and therefore individuals at no charge. NHPHA supports sound policies for the distribution and administration of vaccines and is seeking to learn more about this particular bill.

SB 718 provides an appropriation for the development of a state health assessment and state health improvement plan and does so under the guidance of the already existing advisory council. Such assessment and planning is at the core of public health. NHPHA participates in the council and supports the bill.

Regarding Healthy Environments – Natural, Built and Social, NHPHA has been working with a core group of energy-conscious and health organizations since the summer on work leading to SB 590. This bill establishes a committee to develop science-based emission reduction goals for New Hampshire and articulates the public health effects of climate change. We will continue to work with partners to support this bill.

NHPHA has been a strong supporter of legislation in the past to help prevent childhood lead poisoning. This year we will support SB 599, which requires the testing of water for lead in schools and child care facilities and lowers the acceptable level. We will also lend support in favor of HB 1539, which establishes procedures for the relocation of children with elevated lead levels.

We are watching two bills this session relative to Gun Violence Prevention: HB 1379, which requires a criminal background check for commercial firearms sales, and HB 1608, which prohibits the manufacture, sale, transfer, and possession of large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices. NHPHA continues to support common sense gun prevention legislation.

We are still finalizing which bills we will follow relative to Substance Misuse.

As with any legislative session, this is a fluid process, and we will support other bills that are brought to our attention as we can based on our capacity. We remain committed to having a strong advocacy presence at the state house. Watch for our Health In All Policies newsletter in the future.

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