Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Presidential Address and a Fellow’s Perspective

Dominique Comer, PharmD
Health Economics and Outcomes Research Fellow

I have just returned from the 2012 ASHP Midyear Meeting, the largest gathering of pharmacists and pharmacy students in the US. While this meeting is always popular for those in the pharmacy profession, there was extra anticipation this year when it was announced that President Bill Clinton was to be our opening keynote speaker.

Many of us waited for hours in line to enter the arena to hear him speak, and with approximately 20,000 attending the meeting, overflow rooms were utilized to handle the demand.
Even though this was a pharmacy conference, much of what President Clinton spoke about was strongly rooted in population health. The president talked about inequality in access, the unsustainability of various programs and the instability of the market and how all three points tie back to impact health care and the economy.

I enjoyed listening to one of his stories about the way that the William J. Clinton Foundation is tackling the childhood obesity epidemic. In discussions with the soft drink companies, the president said that he didn’t want the companies to stop making money…just to make their money in a different way (think diet sodas, flavored water, etc.)!  He reported on the success in this area, even stating that there has been a 90% decrease seen in the caloric content of soft drinks and juice sold to schoolchildren.

At the end of his speech, the president stressed that a change in culture is needed now and that purpose-driven reform will be required for us to move forward, which is a core belief here at JSPH.

At a Q&A session after his address, President Clinton encouraged us to “step into the gap.” What needs to be done in order to improve health care? The president noted that when he left office, he made a list of what he still wanted to accomplish. After scratching off what he could no longer do out of the office as president, he discovered that he still had a long list and then set out to organize how he could make an impact for each task. This piece of advice is very pertinent to population health; how can we “step into the gap” and make an impact?