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Policy for a healthy America

The solu­tion to the nation’s health­care crisis lies in shifting from a costly par­a­digm of treating sick patients to pro­moting health and pre­venting ill­ness, according to health policy expert Tim­othy Hoff.

“We need to invest much more money in deliv­ering better value to health con­sumers, and that means things like helping the public stay well,” said Hoff, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of man­age­ment, health­care sys­tems, and health policy at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “Improving the health­care system is depen­dent on pro­moting pre­ven­tion and pri­mary care, and doing less high-​​cost spe­cialty care that may not improve or extend people’s lives in the ways we desire.”

U.S. health­care reform is the focus of this fall’s Open Class­room series, which will be co-​​taught by Hoff as well as John Auer­bach, director of the university’s Insti­tute on Urban Health Research, and Wendy Parmet, Matthews Dis­tin­guished Uni­ver­sity Pro­fessor of Law. This semester’s Open Class­room, titled “Policy for a Healthy America,” will run from Sept. 4 to Dec. 4 and be held on Wednes­days from 6 to 8 p.m. in West Vil­lage F.

Each semester, one graduate-​​level sem­inar is selected for the series and opened up to the entire campus and the public for free. Reg­is­tra­tion infor­ma­tion can be found here while under­grad­uate and grad­uate stu­dents can take the course for credit.

Topics of dis­cus­sion will range from patient safety and repro­duc­tive health to the Afford­able Care Act and obe­sity. Guest speakers will include Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino; Andrew Dreyfus, pres­i­dent and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass­a­chu­setts; and Amy Whit­comb Slemmer, exec­u­tive director of Health Care for All, a Massachusetts-​​based orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to making ade­quate and afford­able health­care acces­sible to everyone, regard­less of social or eco­nomic status.

“I expect our speakers will leave behind the slo­gans and shouting matches that have char­ac­ter­ized so much public dis­course on health policy in the last few years and explore some of the lesser known, but crit­ical, issues that con­front our health­care system,” said Parmet, an expert in dis­ability and public health law.

Now is the per­fect time to strike up a public debate over health­care policy, according to Auer­bach, a nation­ally known expert in public health­care and civic lead­er­ship. Prior to joining the North­eastern fac­ulty, he served as the com­mis­sioner of the Mass­a­chu­setts Depart­ment of Public Health, working as a senior health policy adviser to Gov. Deval Patrick and over­seeing the organization’s $800 million budget.

“This is a sen­tinel moment in health­care and health pro­mo­tion in America as a result of the pas­sage of the Afford­able Care Act,” he explained. “There are oppor­tu­ni­ties to reshape the health­care field and make mean­ingful progress to assure that health ser­vices are acces­sible, high quality, and cost effective.

“We can only take advan­tage of these oppor­tu­ni­ties if we are well informed and actively engaged,” he added. “This course may help pro­vide the atten­dees the infor­ma­tion and tools they want and need.”

Joan Fitzgerald, the interim dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, which spon­sors the sem­inar series, agreed with Auerbach’s assess­ment of the course’s value. “This course is par­tic­u­larly timely, espe­cially with the court deci­sion on Oba­macare and con­tinued efforts to pre­vent it from being imple­mented,” she said. “There is so much mis­in­for­ma­tion about how health­care works in the United States and how our system com­pares with other countries.”

– By Jason Kornwitz

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