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August 2009 Minutes

American Public Health Association

Disability Section Minutes

Monthly Meeting

Conference Call


August 6, 2009



Council members present: Roberta S. Carlin (Communications Chair), Charles Drum (Governing Council Representative), Catherine Leigh Graham (Accessibility Co-Chair), George Jesien (Membership Chair), Willi Horner-Johnson (Treasurer), H. Stephen Kaye (Program Chair), Suzanne McDermott (Policy Chair), Jennifer Rowland (Awards Chair), and Meg Ann Traci (Secretary).

Council members not present: Anthony Cahill (Accessibility Co-Chair), Stephen French Gilson (Chair Elect), Gloria Krahn (Past Chair/Elections Chair), Don Lollar (Governing Council Representative), Jana Petersen (Student Liaison Faculty Supervisor),James H. Rimmer (Chair), and Anjali Truitt (Student Liaison).

Special Guests: Joe Caldwell, Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow; Kim Musheno, AUCD Policy Analyst; Kristine Mulhorn, APHA Action Board and previous Accessibility Co-Chair.



Opening: Jennifer Rowland, who chaired the call in Jim Rimmer’s absence, opened the meeting at 11:00 a.m. (EDT) prompting roll call and discussion of minutes from the July 2, 2009 meeting.


Minutes: The July 2, 2009 meeting minutes were approved as corrected (mover: Suzanne McDermott; seconder: Catherine Graham).


Legislative Update on Health Care Reform: George Jesien introduced Joe Caldwell, who completed his doctoral work at the University of Illinois-Chicago in the Disability Studies program, served first as the 2005 AUCD Policy Fellow and subsequently as AUCD’s Policy Analyst. Joe now is a Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow and serves in Senator Dodd’s office. George mentioned that Senator Dodd, due to Senator Kennedy’s illness, has assumed added leadership responsibilities in formulating the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP Committee’s health care reform bill. Kim Musheno, AUCD Director of Legislative Affairs, also joined the call to provide additional insights and updates (see AUCD’s webpage on health care reform that provides updates and lists other resources: ).


Joe provided an overview of and an update on the health care reform legislative processes. Congress is in recess (Senate, August 7-September 8, 2009; and House, August 3-September 4, 2009), and four of the five committees with jurisdiction over health care reform have completed their ‘markup’ of health care reform bills:


1) The HELP committee finished its markup of the bill three weeks ago (before Joe arrived at Dodd’s office;Joe credited Senator Dodd and his hard-working staff for this significant progress):


House bill has made it through three committees.


2) The House Energy and Commerce Committee completed its markup of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act:


3) The House Ways and Means Committee completed its markup:


4) The House Committee on Education and Labor completed its markup:


5) The Senate Finance Committee has yet to finish its process that has involved six senators working primarily behind closed doors.


When legislators return to Washington, D.C. in September, the House and Senate will need to merge their bills, and the House bill will need to go to the floor. In the mean time, congressional representatives will be in their local districts listening to local constituents.


Joe highlighted components of the legislation that benefit persons with disability:


1. Pre-existing Conditions. There is consensus across all bills to eliminate prohibitions related to pre-existing conditions.


2. Long Term Services and Supports.

a) The HELP committee and the three House committees included the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. The CLASS Act allows workers to pay into a fund and if needed get a cash benefit to choose and pay for long term services and supports either in the community or an institution. Joe mentioned that insurance companies are out in full force trying to remove the CLASS Act and suggested that the disability community needs to rally behind the CLASS Act to ensure its inclusion.

b) Meg asked about the Community Choice Act (CCA), and Joe responded that Senator Harkin’s consistent, strong support and push of CCA may result in demonstration projects and potentially an increased Federal match. Joe expressed his hope that something on Medicaid and Long Term Services and Supports would be included in health care reform, and he mentioned that even after the legislation has passed committee, that Senator Harkin (or others) could offer an amendment on the floor to include CCA.


3. Prevention and Health Promotion.

a) Public Health Trust Fund: $80 billion in dedicated funding for public health efforts, and while there is not language specific to disability or secondary conditions, the fund could benefit disability public health efforts.

b) The HELP Committee’s bill includes components of Senator Harkin’s Promoting Wellness for Individuals with Disabilities Act such as the development and implementation of accessibility standards for diagnostics and medical equipment. The House bills address accessible medical equipment but do not include the specific language from Harkin’s Wellness Act.

c. Components of the bills that provide for health care professional training could support training on disability issues (e.g., developing disability sensitivity curricula). Joe mentioned that stories and data would help to shape training objectives.

d. There is support for health disparities data collection in all bills. Language in the HELP committee’s bill includes disability with traditional demographics like gender, race and ethnicity while the House bills include “other subpopulations” with race, ethnicity and gender.


Suzanne asked Joe whether APHA is seen as a force on the ‘Hill’. Joe said that APHA is viewed as a primary player from his limited experience. Senator Dodd’s office may be a little different, because Monica Nettles Feit, PhD, MPH, APHA’s Public Health Fellow in Government, is a member of Dodd’s staff. As an example, Dodd’s staff was aware of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and included mention of it in a recent email.


During the August recess, APHA will be telling stories that illustrate the organization’s priorities for health care reform, and Joe suggested that our stories could add disability perspectives.


Roberta asked whether some of the other provisions of Harkin’s bill were included in the health care reform bills or markups, e.g., is disability training of health care providers in the House bill? Joe and Kim recalled that medical equipment got included, and Kim added that Doyle’s amendment on autism and developmental disabilities was included.


There was discussion of the proposed national health insurance exchange-- what benefits will be included and the determination process (e.g., advisory committees). Both the House and the HELP bills provide for this exchange. Some noted that the Clinton administration may have made the mistake of defining the exchange too specifically, while the current democratic leadership is leaving control of the benefits package to the HHS Secretary, e.g., whether to include habilitation and rehabilitation services (the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities advocated for the inclusion of rehabilitation devices in the House bill).


Steve asked Joe for a follow up call about the health care reform session being held at 2009 APHA meetings in Philadelphia. Monica Feit will be presenting on the HELP committee’s work on health care reform at the APHA conference session with another APHA fellow and possibly a third person.


APHA Action Board, Kristine Mulhorn, PhD, MHSA, College of Nursing & Health Professions-Health Services Administration Program, Drexel Univ., Philadelphia, PA: Jim asked Kristine to attend today’s meeting to provide an update on her new role on the APHA Action Board. Kristine was nominated to the Action Board at an exciting time (currently there are 32 members on the Action Board, ). Kristine reported that she has participated in several conference calls and an in-person meeting in May in Washington, D. C. at the APHA building. At those meetings, Action Board members focused on strategies to implement in their individual states in the coming year. In Washington, D.C., Action Board members visited senators’ and representatives’ offices to present to the staffers the most recent compilation of APHA positions and policy. This year’s compilation covered transportation, the built environment, the Health Impact Statement, the Tobacco bill, and the upcoming climate legislation. During her meetings with Senator Specter’s staff and Senator Casey’s staff, Kristine did not have a lot of time to talk about disability, but she was happy to talk about disability issues that related to topics within the compilation.


Program, Chair Steve Kaye

Steve reported that the program is being finalized tomorrow and is looking good.  Almost everything is in place, including all but one panel moderator. Although a few scheduled presenters have withdrawn their abstracts (all but one were posters), Steve moved other abstracts off of the waiting list to take their places. Steve expects there may be further cancellations due to difficulties people are having in arranging travel funding.  A few invited speakers need help with travel or registration costs, and Steve will supply Willi with details as soon as possible.


Catherine asked for the target date for publication of the program. Steve did not have an exact date. Suzanne asked whether the talks Joe Caldwell mentioned about Health Care Reform will be cross-listed with Disability Section programs. Steve said to accomplish that, the Disability Section needs to co-sponsor those sessions. Historically, the Disability Section has not done this because we lose our core audience. Steve mentioned that maybe we could: 1) co-sponsor and hence, cross list this session on health care reform, and 2) reconsider our stance on this practice in general.  If the Disability Section co-sponsors that session, the accessibility of the room would need to be checked. Roberta suggested that she could email an ‘alert’ to the Disability Section members about the health care reform session.


Communications, Chair Robert Carlin

The Disability and Health Journal (DHJO) is publishing abstracts of papers accepted for presentation at the 2009 APHA meetings in Philadelphia. Roberta emailed those authors submission invitations and directions. Roberta is trying to communicate with Disability Section members one time per week via email. Newsletter content is due to Roberta by Aug 15th.


Membership, Chair George Jesien

George reported that the Disability Section has increased membership (253) by 2% in June (an overall 1% increase since the end of the quarter in March)-- 76 regular members, 34 student members,13 retired members, and the remainder fit other categories. The Disability Section membership represents 1% of APHA membership (24,000). APHA sent George a list of twelve lapsed members who he will contact.


George reported that the Disability Section booth has a good location for the 2009 meetings (e.g., next to NCPAD’s booth, the first set of aisles). Kristine asked if we could email other APHA members about joining another section. George said that membership chairs of other sections would have to approve this and provide the distribution list.  


Awards, Chair Jennifer Rowland

Jennifer has sent messages to the nominators of people who did not receive awards.  She announced that: 1) Barbara Altman was selected for the 2009 APHA Disability Section Life Time Achievement Award; 2) Willi Horner-Johnson was selected for the 2009 New Investigator Award; and 3) Cheri Blauwet was selected for the 2009 Student Member Award. Typically, the Student Member Award recipient receives a 1-year membership, however, since Cheri has graduated, we may need to sponsor her with a APHA’s designation of a Special Health Care Worker category membership ($20 more than the student membership). Jennifer stated that we may face a common problem in the future of having nominees for the Student Award who are students at the time of their nominations but who may subsequently graduate and move to non-student status before the awards are given during the annual meeting. She asked Section Council members whether they approved of the inclusion of a free membership as part of the student award in the future, even if it means paying for a non-student membership because of the potential student status changes. Section Council members agreed that we should pay for the one-year membership for student winners, even if their status has changed by the time the award is given.


To help shape the external section award(s), Jennifer asked councilors to email topics of interest that the Section is working toward and ideas. The external award will be based on content not so much accessibility of presentations. 


Suzanne pointed to International Health Section and suggested not limiting merit to presentations but also include policy work. Meg wondered if that Section could be recognized at the Section Leaders (“Meet the Disability Section”) meeting.


Policy, Chair Suzanne McDermott

Suzanne reported on:

1) the APHA letter on H.R. 3101, the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 (appendix); and

2) Her work with Donald Hoppert to summarize all the health care reform issues of importance to people with disabilities into one letter.


Accessibility, Co-Chairs Catherine Graham and Tony Cahill

Catherine is recruiting people for the Physical Activity SPIG’s Fun Run/Walk to be held during the 2009 Philadelphia meetings (Tuesday morning at 6AM). The APHA newsletter will have an item on accessibility of the 2009 APHA meetings in Philadelphia.


Catherine is recruiting people from Jefferson and Magee Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center in Philadelphia and students to volunteer at the Accessibility Booth. In return for volunteering, APHA will pay for a one day registration for an alternate day.  Catherine will meet with volunteers each morning for a brief overview of the structure for the day and contact information.  Catherine will train hotel and convention center staff on accessibility on Friday, November 6th.


Treasurer, Willi Horner-Johnson

Willi reported that CDC awarded new funds to the Disability Section; she is waiting to hear about our carry-forward request.


Willi reported that there are fewer and more expensive menu options for the 2009 APHA meetings as compared to last year. For the morning Disability Section Council meeting, we will forgo breakfast unless councilors bring their own.  Willi will check if our current funds can be used to pay for liquor. If so, for the early evening Section Leaders meeting, there were two suggestions: 1) One hour with an open bar ($20/person) or 2) cash bar with drink tickets for invited guests.


Willi will check with Stephen Gilson to see that the Chair’s Forum will have needed AV equipment.



Jennifer Rowland closed the meeting at 12:07 p.m. (EST). The next Disability Section Council meeting will be held September 4, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. (EST). Minutes submitted by Secretary Meg Traci.