Amy Bush Stevens is the vice president of prevention and public health policy at the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, which provides Ohio policymakers with independent, nonpartisan health policy analysis. Bush Stevens spoke with Interact about how the organization has used its Health Value Dashboard to inform tobacco prevention and cessation policy in Ohio.
Interact for Health: Can you explain more about the Health Policy Institute of Ohio and its goals?
Amy Bush Stevens: Our mission is to provide independent and nonpartisan information to Ohio policymakers, so that they can make evidence-informed decisions about health policy. We started focusing on ways to reduce tobacco use back in 2014 as a result of the first edition of our Health Value Dashboard. That edition, and a follow up in 2017, found Ohio was among the worst states for adult smoking and for children exposed to secondhand smoke.
Interact for Health: Can you share an example of HPIO's work and the positive results you have seen?
Bush Stevens: Since releasing the first dashboard, we've done several publications on tobacco, and that's been a launching pad for us to testify before state legislative committees on budget proposals to increase the cigarette tax and the funding level for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
In the final 2016-2017 budget, there was a slight increase in the cigarette tax and an increase in prevention and cessation funding that goes through the Ohio Department of Health. There was an additional increase in tobacco prevention and cessation funding in the 2017-2018 budget, but such funding is still far below what CDC recommends.
We were also involved in, and hopefully contributed to, Ohio's comprehensive primary care initiative's decision to include tobacco screening and cessation as a quality metric.
Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned from your work with HPIO?
Bush Stevens: One lesson I have learned is the importance of building relationships and being patient with those relationships. We do a lot of reaching out to legislators and meeting with them one on one. We like to circle back and continually meet with them so they know we exist and can turn to us for information.
Interact for Health: What accomplishments are you most proud of at HPIO?
Bush Stevens: I think there's pretty high awareness of the dashboard among legislators and state agency leaders. It's important for legislators to have that check-in to see how the state is performing on tobacco use and other public health measures, particularly as we monitor the potential impacts of the Affordable Care Act and changes to the law.
Interact for Health: What about your work excites you or is most fulfilling?
Bush Stevens: I really relish the opportunity that we have to dig through the research and identify what works to address the challenges that we face in Ohio. Being able to take the time to look through the research and highlight the effective strategies and point those out to policymakers is one of the most exciting things I get to do in my job.
Interact for Health regularly conducts research and collects data in order to monitor and evaluate our region’s health status and to measure public opinions about health policy.
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