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Health Policy and Advocacy Committee (HPAC) Updates 2016

About HPAC

Committee Application process: The HPAC has a yearly application cycle to add new members to replace outgoing committee members. Announcements opening the application process will be sent to SMFM members in October, 2016.

Committee Roster
SMFM GR Committee Minutes - May 2015
Minutes from GR committee meetings - Feb 2015
Committee Reports to Executive Board - Feb 2015
Major Projects – Coalition to Advance Maternal Therapeutics
SMFM letters of support
2015 legislation
a. GME
b.  Legislative Briefings
a. Preterm Birth 2014 
b. Health Care Disparities 2015
Newsletter articles
HPAC Handbook

May 22, 2016

A long-awaited legislative initiative, the Safe Medications for Moms & Babies Act, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of SMFM’s leadership and collaboration with others in the maternal and child health community. The bill is a great first step toward gathering more information about the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs used during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as to prioritizing research in pregnancy. Read the entire article here!

February 16, 2016

Buzz for the mosquito as well as postpartum blues

HPAC Sets Agenda

SMFM’s Health Policy and Advocacy Committee (HPAC) held its first meeting after being constituted at SMFM’s Annual Meeting February 2. The Committee has a full agenda for 2016, working on various health policy publications as well as a robust advocacy agenda that will include not just legislative work but also regulatory input.

Over the next year, you will be hearing about the HPAC’s efforts and we hope that you will become involved from the advocacy perspective! 

SMFM Leads Letter in Support of Emergency Zika Funding

In the wake of the Zika virus making its way to the U.S., and its implications on pregnant women and their babies, SMFM has spearheaded a letter to Congress in support of the President’s request for emergency funding related to Zika. SMFM was joined by 18 organizations to urge Congress to move quickly to approve this funding. The final letter will be found on the Advocacy page of the SMFM website. The President requested a total of $1.8 billion ($1.48 billion of which would go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for various Zika-related activities).

You can read the entire letter here. 

The letter reads, in part:

“As the epidemic spreads we are growing increasingly concerned about maternal-fetal transmission, the immune response, and the potential causal relationship to fetal microcephaly and abnormal brain development. What we have determined so far may be the tip of the iceberg, and we are concerned that other, more subtle effects may not be discovered until the children are older. As we all work together to answer these pressing questions, it is imperative that the scope of the response be broader than emergency funding.

As health care professionals and consumers, we are in daily contact with women and families threatened by the Zika virus. As we learn more about the virus’ origins and transmission, and the particularly devastating effects on the developing fetus, we urge you to ensure that the appropriate federal programs are prioritized through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).” 

SMFM Endorses Post-Partum Depression Legislation

SMFM has joined ACOG, March of Dimes, and the American Academy of Pediatrics in supporting S. 2311, the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act, introduced by Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Gillibrand (D-NY). The bill would authorized the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide grants to states for screening and treatment for maternal depression.

Two Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee members Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) are working together to shepherd a mental health package through the Senate. SMFM is working with the organizations named above to push this legislation, and we hope that S. 2311 will be incorporated into the broader mental health legislation making its way through Congress.

FY2017 Appropriations Process Underway

February is the thick of “Appropriations season.” The President released his budget request on February 9, but as we say here in Washington, “The President proposes and Congress disposes.” Many analysts have indicated that the President’s last budget request of his term is dead even before it’s arrival to the Hill. As the HPAC makes it way through the request it will begin working on supporting programs related to maternal health, ensuring that the NIH receives sustained and prioritized funding and examining public health programs to make sure that their value is conveyed to Congressional decision-makers.

SMFM recently joined hundreds of public health, labor, and educational organizations in urging Congress to allocate the highest possible amount to the appropriations sub-committee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education so that key programs have enough money to go around. SMFM will provide public witness testimony to the Appropriations Committees as they hold hearings and through coalition work will meet with Congressional staff and members to carry the message that maternal health programs are an important investment.


Congress passes legislation with $2 billion increase for the NIH, looks to FY 2017 

Although Congress previously worked out a deal that would raise the discretionary spending caps for two years, they still had to work out the details of the how the money would be allocated.  After advocating for sustained funding for the NIH, Congress agreed that it should be a priority, and funded it at $32 billion. This is a $2 billion increase over current funding levels, and a huge win for the biomedical research community! SMFM was pleased to see this outcome, and hopes to continue the momentum going into FY 2017. 

Related to FY2017, because those top line funding levels are already finished, we do expect to see Congress to act quicker than they have in years past on appropriations. SMFM’s Health Policy & Advocacy Committee will immediately begin working to develop our funding level “asks” and potential language related to research and public health to bring to Congress. The Society has been successful in years past in highlighting pre-term birth, maternal mortality and morbidity and medications in pregnancy and breastfeeding, among other focus areas.  

At the same time, President Obama will submit his last budget request to Congress on February 9th, but the community is being warned not to expect huge increase in funding requests as a result of the aforementioned budget deal. Once the budget is released, SMFM will analyze it and work to advocate on behalf of pregnant women. 

Medications in Pregnancy and Lactation UPDATE! 

As you know, SMFM has been leading the Coalition to Advance Maternal Therapeutics (CAMT). Most recently the Coalition hosted officials from FDA and CDC to discuss with Coalition members the most recent drug labeling guidance and the CDC’s Treating for Two initiative. The Coalition membership is growing every day, and it is looking to expand beyond the maternal and child health community to include other practitioners and patient advocacy organizations.  

Part of this year’s efforts for the CAMT will occur in just a couple of weeks, when Coalition members will engage in an advocacy day to discuss with key Congressional offices on the issue of medications in pregnancy and lactation. We hope to have successful interactions and shed some more light on this important issue.  

Senate HELP Committee Questions FDA Nominee, Highlights Pregnancy 

Current Acting FDA Commissioner Robert Califf has been nominated to take the position on permanently. Since this position requires Senate confirmation, he has been making the rounds in front of the relevant Senate committees to answer questions and discuss his agenda. Califf, a cardiologist by training, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate, although two Senators did threaten to hold up his nomination prior to the Senate HELP Committee vote on the matter. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) is concerned about new rules for labeling genetically modified salmon, while Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and current presidential candidate, indicated that “the country needs an FDA commissioner who will stand up to the pharmaceutical industry.” 

SMFM was particularly grateful to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for her line of official questions to Dr. Califf, which included a question about including women in clinical trials. Calif’s response was particularly interesting and exciting to SMFM, as he noted specifically that, " we know little about the proper dosing of drugs in pregnant women, and the success of the treatment of congenital disorders, serious genetically determined diseases and chronic diseases of childhood has dramatically increased the number of pregnant women who must be treated during pregnancy.” 

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