By Christi Hardeman
Social work graduate students examined the future of health care policy and other public policy issues during Parham Policy Day, held Nov. 19 at the UGA Gwinnett campus.
The annual student-run event is an opportunity for its organizers to hear from experts on public policymaking and to present their own research on the impact that policies have on marginalized populations.
This year’s guest speakers discussed barriers to health care for underserved communities, possible changes to health care access over the next few years and how social workers might advocate for policy changes.
Travis Patton, director of sponsored programs at Clark Atlanta University, told attendees that anticipated cuts to the Affordable Care Act will only exacerbate an already unequal distribution of services. Patton previously directed the National Minority Male Health Project, which addressed health disparities among low-income, minority populations.
Patton encouraged social work students to advocate for policy changes that promote social justice, especially at the state level.
Obie Clayton, Distinguished Professor and chairman of the sociology and criminal justice department at Clark Atlanta University, spoke about the barriers to health care for immigrants. He reminded students that impediments can include language, legal status, cultural attitudes and attitudes toward race. Clayton also discussed the effectiveness of innovative, local nonprofit physician clinics that serve the uninsured.
Parham Policy Day concluded with an overview of the Affordable Care Act, highlighting current statistical trends aimed at increasing the number of insured Americans and providing greater access to and availability of health care. The students were led in a polling activity in which the majority of students concluded that, even though the ACA has tremendously increased insurance percentage rates in the U.S., access and availability could be improved.
The event also included a poster competition featuring student research on social policy issues. Two posters tied for first place: “Aging in America” by Lakeshia McClendon and Elizabeth Berry explained the policy history, problems and available services, including home and community-based services, for the older adult population. “Georgia Maternal Death Rate” by Hannah Kim, Andrea Perkins and Kara Wickman highlighted ways that public policy can address Georgia’s maternal death rates, which are among the highest in the nation.
Parham Policy Day was created in 2003 by June Gary Hopps, Parham Professor of Family and Children Studies, to honor Thomas M. “Jim” Parham, a former School of Social Work faculty member who helped to shape social policy under three Georgia governors and President Jimmy Carter.
Hopps, who participated in lunch-counter sit-ins in the early 1960s that helped to change segregation policies, guided the graduate students.