Department: Editor's Memo
It is once again time to reflect upon a year past and another year forthcoming. This year was one of landmark anniversaries. We are still rebuilding New Orleans 10 years after the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. It has been 30 years since the release of USA for Africa's song, We Are the World, a charity single released to help the children of Africa, and Steven Spielberg's movie Back to the Future Part II, in which many of the predictions about living in 2015 have actually happened. Forty years ago, we launched the first issue of The Nurse Practitioner journal. We also celebrated 50 years of the NP movement, which is going strong.
There have also been many anniversaries celebrating historical events. Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act along with the bill that led to Medicare and Medicaid. Sixty years have passed since Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus in Alabama and sparked what many call the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. The United Nations was founded 70 years ago, and yet we still struggle for world peace and basic human rights for all people. The Magna Carta was signed in England 800 years ago and became a model for our own Constitution. Although we can learn much through history, we tend to forget and continually recycle past behaviors.
Staying abreast of new legislation
However, the U.S. Supreme Court is one of the mechanisms we have to help maintain the integrity of Constitutional law. Pregnancy and housing discrimination, race and redistricting, and religious freedom in prison were a few of the challenges brought before the Court.
Although all rulings by the Court have significance for some, three especially stand out because of their broader application: states may use a drug linked to apparently botched executions to carry out death sentences; the healthcare tax subsidies were legal in states that had decided not to run market places for insurance coverage after enactment of the 2010 Affordable Care Act; and the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Healthcare providers, including NPs, must always be vigilant in staying informed regarding pending legislation in Congress and cases before the Supreme Court that affect our practice.
Empowered and informed
In 2016, we will be given the opportunity to exercise our right to vote for the leader of our country. Become informed about all candidates—even those for whom you will not vote—as they might win and will wind up representing you. This year is the midpoint evaluation for Healthy People 2020; several new objectives were added, but public comment period ended on November 13, 2015.
A new objective proposed for Social Determinants of Health (SDOH-6) is to include the “proportion of persons eligible to participate in elections who register and who actually vote.” The current overall goal is to “create social and physical environments that promote good health for all.” One strategy is to include “health in all policies,” closing the gaps as goals to be shared across all areas of government. We all are familiar with the social determinants of health and know that lawmakers can help us in the fight to eradicate health disparities or continue to contribute to their perpetuity.
There will be many elections during the coming year. Whenever election time comes in your community, mention voting to your patients. Do not enter into a political discourse because you and your patient may not agree on the issues. Agreeing is not the goal, but promoting health in your community is a professional responsibility. Encourage your patients to become informed about a candidate's stance on issues that affect their personal health as well as the health of their communities. The vote is power. A wondrous holiday season to all! Happy New Year!
Jamesetta Newland, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP