Tuesday, March 14, 2017

MAND State Legislative Interactive Workshop

On February 8th, 2017, the University of Maryland interns joined forces with members of the Maryland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (MAND) in Annapolis to rally for nutrition-related bills. Teams spoke with Maryland Senators, Delegates, and their staff to encourage approval of bills that, if passed, will benefit nutrition professionals and residents alike. Each team leader was equipped with a list of bills to discuss along with related talking points.

My team and me with Maryland Delegate, Alonzo Washington

The bills that we promoted include:
  • Health Care Practitioners-Cost Estimate A huge barrier to effective healthcare is the cost. This bill will, in theory, would provide the public with estimated costs of services prior treatment. Unfortunately, sometimes the number of treatments or exactly what insurance will pay (or not pay) is not known in advance as it may change depending on later testing results, insurance reimbursement changes, etc. For this reason, MAND supported the concept, but opposed the bill based on its approach, i.e. its “language”.
  • Update of Advisory Board & Councils on Health & Wellness
    With the help of MAND testimony given in January, a bill was approved which allows dietitians to serve on the Council on Health & Wellness. During our visit we thanked legislators for supporting the bill.
  • Workgroup on Health in All Policies
    We asked that dietitians have the ability to join this workgroup, as dietitians have a unique perspective on health, wellness, and community that can strengthen the group. The mission of this group is to collaborate to improve health and healthcare accessibility in both the private and public sectors.
  • Maryland Farms & Families Act
    With this bill, food-insecure Maryland residents will have double the financial support to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers markets. Although this bill will be financially cumbersome for the state, it will help SNAP and WIC participants by allowing for double the purchasing power and will also help local farmers thrive by promoting farmers markets.

What I took away from the workshop:
Before this interactive workshop, I had minimal interest in state legislation. I now have a new respect for lobbyist and the legislation process at the state level. Each representative that my team spoke to was kind and welcoming. I was impressed by the attention that was given to our quick speech. What I appreciated the most, however, was that each conversation was approached with logic and a touch of empathy--the very combination that drove me to a career in nutrition.

The week before this workshop, I attended a committee meeting as part of my rotation with the Agency on Aging. This committee is dedicated to increasing accessibility of healthcare in the “Health Enterprise Zone,” an area of Maryland that is a healthcare desert. Before the meeting, I knew nothing about the situation but immediately felt a calling to do something. Little did I know that a week later, I would be promoting the “Workgroup on Health in All Policies”  bill, which could help that very situation. My team met with state senator, Joanne C. Benson, who shared our passion for the “Workgroup on Health in All Policies.” She spoke to us about how, if enacted, this bill will improve access to healthcare, especially for those in the Health Enterprise Zone.

This workshop has inspired me to stay informed and active on similar state and local-level nutrition-related bills. It is inspiring to know that I don’t need to a have a career in politics to make a difference.

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