Today was “access to care” day for the Summer Service Partnership, with attention to health policy and advocacy thrown in for good measure.

In class, students shared drafts of their op/eds and their photovoice tours of health issues in their neighborhoods, prepping for next week’s presentation. We discussed the Affordable Care Act and thought about the political process of passing laws, then implementing them.

Over lunch, the Institute of Politics partnered with the Summer Service Partnership to host a panel: Public Health, Policy and Advocacy: Building the Environment that Determines our Health.

The goal of the panel was to understand recent public health legislation, the process by which legislation is developed and passed, and how public health policies are implemented on the ground, in the cities and communities where we live.

I moderated a fantastic panel including three distinguished speakers who implement, write and oversee public health legislation from the city, state and national levels.

State Senator Mattie Hunter is a full time legislator born in Chicago.  She represents the 3rd district, and serves as the Senate Majority Whip. This spring, she sponsored the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) act, that proposed to tax soda at one cent per ounce, and split the estimated $600 million raised to fund Medicaid and community health programs.

Jay Bhatt is an internal medicine physician and geriatrician who likes to dance. He serves with the Chicago Department of Public Health as the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer and Managing Deputy Commissioner of Public Health.

Laura Phalen is the Policy Director for Get Covered Illinois, implementing the national Affordable Care Act legislation on a state level.

They each began by describing their organization, and their role in it, then answered questions about the HEAL Act, the Affordable Care Act, and how the Chicago Department of Public Health is supporting their implementation on the ground.

It was an interesting panel to host.

How are policies made? How are they implemented? How are they enforced?

It was a fun challenge to moderate the panel, juggling between lunch and audience and speakers and seating. 90 RSVPs for a room with 30 seats! We managed to squeeze in beautifully, and the panel fielded questions from “why don’t we have universal health insurance?” to “what do you think of medical marijuana?” to “what was your path to getting your job as policy director?”

Overall, a great lunchtime panel, and day.