State Sen. Ray Cleary, a South Carolina Republican, has proposed S.286
to create a free dental screening program for schoolchildren in at
least 3 of the state's poorest counties - where children are most
likely to go without regular dental care. Sen. Cleary, a dentist
to combat the adverse effects that poor dental health has on a child's
education, including the inability to focus while in school because of
pain and missed school days. According to the Pew Center on the States,
tooth decay is the most common childhood disease, affecting 60% of all
children and causing kids across the country to miss 51 million hours
of school time each year.
With Governor Schwarzenegger's approval of AB 97,
California became the first state to ban the use of trans fats in food
preparation at restaurants and bakeries, achieving a key public health
goal. Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils,
are used in numerous prepared and packaged foods like French fries,
margarines, crackers, and doughnuts. Trans fats significantly increase
consumers' risk of heart disease by spiking so-called bad cholesterol
and decreasing good cholesterol. Several cities,
including New York City, preceded California with their own bans, but
the California action will increase the likelihood that other states
will follow suit. Under the California law,
restaurants must discontinue their use of trans fats by 2010 and
bakeries must comply by 2011; fines will range from $25 to $1,000.
Packaged foods are exempt.
Health care costs can be dramatically lowered if the public
is protected from deadly and costly public health dangers. Most of these require little or no public funds, have a positive impact on local economies, and have been put in place in numerous cities and states around the country. This section discusses model policies and provides resources for banning smoking in public places, banning toxic chemicals for consumer products, listing calories on restaurant menus, and banning trans-fats from food production.
Incremental steps to improve the health care system can lay the
foundation for comprehensive reform that provides health care for all.
Comprehensive reforms enacted in Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and San Francisco were, in large part, the result of pragmatic incremental steps those states had already taken. For example, a Families USA report discusses the many reforms Massachusetts put in place over the years that led to its comprehensive 2006 reform. Not every state is as far along in moving comprehensive health care reform, but
each state does have numerous options for increasing access to
coverage, reducing the growth of health care costs, and improving the
quality of care.