Tag Archives: public policy

Understand Climate Change – and What You Can Do About It

Learn more about climate change with new programs that examine its impact from a variety of perspectives. Discover how humans and climate interact and affect one another, learn what you can do to reduce greenhouse emissions, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Pope’s call to protect the environment.

8232Climate Change, Consumerism and the Pope with Daniel Kammen and Jennifer Granholm

After being summoned to the Vatican to advise on climate change, Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley shares an insider’s view on what inspired Pope Francis to issue such a passionate plea to protect the earth in Laudato Si, his 2015 encyclical on the environment. As a practicing Catholic, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm praises the Pope for presenting “human ecology” as a moral issue in this lively exchange with Kammen and Henry E. Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

Watch Climate Change, Consumerism and the Pope with Daniel Kammen and Jennifer Granholm.

8232What Are You Going to Do About It? The Effect of Uncertainty on Climate Change Policy

Taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions imposes costs now in order to avoid potentially very large costs from more severe climate change in the future. Steve Polasky, Professor of Ecological/Environmental Economics University of Minnesota, reviews major sources of uncertainty and how that alters the choice of optimal climate change policy. He discusses current debates on how best to frame climate change policy, and whether it should be framed as setting limits on greenhouse gas concentrations to avoid potentially catastrophic damages or as an application of benefit-cost analysis.

Watch What Are You Going to Do About It? The Effect of Uncertainty on Climate Change Policy.

8232CARTA: Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution: Past and Future

According to earth scientists, paleontologists, and scholars in other fields, the planet has entered a new geological phase – the Anthropocene, the age of humans. How did this transition of our species from an apelike ancestor in Africa to the current planetary force occur? What are the prospects for the future of world climate, ecosystems, and our species? This symposium presents varied perspectives on these critical questions from earth scientists, ecologists, and paleoanthropologists.

Watch CARTA: Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution: Past and Future.

Check out all of the programs in Understanding Climate Change.

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The Pivot to Asia with Kurt Campbell and Susan Shirk

Kurt Campbell, Former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, visits his Alma Mater, UC San Diego, to share some insight and some anecdotes from his political career.

Campbell, who is now Chairman and CEO of the The Asia Group, sits down with Susan Shirk, the chair of the 21st Century China Program and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at UC San Diego, to discuss US relations with Asia and how that continent has garnered more attention than it has in the past.

When Campbell worked with Secretary Clinton in writing a statement predicting that the 21st century would be largely focused on Asian countries, their piece coined the phrase “pivot to Asia.” This phrase caught the attention of the international media, with some unintended consequences.

Hear Campbell explain the controversy and intentions behind the “pivot towards Asia” as well as the relations between China and Japan in “The Pivot to Asia with Kurt Campbell and Susan Shirk.”

See what other programs are available on International Affairs.

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Implementing Medi-Cal and Private Insurance Coverage in California

UC Berkeley School of Public Health

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have a pervasive impact on the nation and particularly California, the most populous and diverse state in the country.

In this new program from UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, the Goldman School of Public Policy and the Robert Wood Johnson Post-doctoral Scholars Program in Health Policy Research, Larry Levitt, Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives, The Kaiser Family Foundation, and Bruce Bodaken, Chairman and CEO, Blue Shield of California examine access, cost and quality of care issues.

Watch “Implementing Medi-Cal and Private Insurance Coverage in California,” online now. For even more discussion of important health policy issues, also check out our programs from UCSF’s Philip R. Lee Institute of Health Policy Studies.

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The Long and Short of the Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the decision is expected to have wide-reaching consequences for health care across America.

These new programs from UCSF’s Philip R. Lee Institute of Health Policy Studies put the ACA into perspective, from the policy implications in the immediate future to a broader, historical view of health reform in America.

Find out what the experts — not the candidates or partisan pundits — have to say based on years of academic research.

What Now? Health Reform in the Aftermath of the Supreme Court Decision
Experts from UCSF and UC Hastings College of the Law discuss the legal significance of the Supreme Court decision and its practical implications for health care.

Health Care Reform: Are ACAs and Bundled Payments the New New Things? What Happened to the Old New Things?
Stuart Altman, who co-authored “Power, Politics, and Universal Health Care” with David Shactman, details the history of health care reform efforts in the United States during the 1900s – 2000s, putting the current U.S. healthcare system into historical perspective.

 

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Regulation of Sugar – Strategies That Work

As suggested by the experts in “The Skinny on Obesity: Drugs, Cigarettes, Alcohol..and Sugar?” public policy intervention is one possible tactic to put the brakes on America’s obesity epidemic. Whether you consider the regulation of sugar-enriched food products regrettable or a revelation, it helps to know what the research says. Lucky for us, UCSF Health Policy Professor Laura Schmidt offered up an overview.

 

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

So far, evidence shows that individually focused approaches, such as school-based interventions and warning labels on product packaging, demonstrate only salutary efficacy. Conversely, for both alcohol and tobacco, there is robust evidence that “supply side” control strategies —taxation, distribution controls, age limits –- lower both consumption of the product and accompanying health harms.

WHAT DOES WORK

Taxation
Successful interventions for alcohol, tobacco and sugar all share a common end-point: curbing availability. Taxation — in the form of special excise duties, value added taxes, and sales taxes — are the most popular and effective ways to reduce the overall volume of drinking, and in turn, substance abuse and related harms.

Taxes are easy to collect and cause little market distortion. We have robust evidence of their beneficial effects on both acute (e.g., injuries) and chronic (e.g., cirrhosis) alcohol-related health conditions. Moreover, alcohol taxes disproportionately impact youth – a group at particularly high risk for alcohol-related harms.

Soda taxation will likely prove an efficient, effective public health strategy. European experience with sugar taxation thus far strongly supports this conclusion.  However, one problem is that the current U.S. soda tax debate centers on adding one penny per ounce, which would raise the price of a can of soda by only 10-12 cents. Statistical modeling suggests the price should double to significantly impact soda consumption. Another question is whether juice consumption would be similarly taxed, as it contains an even higher average fructose load than does soft drinks (1.8 vs. 1.7 gm/ounce).

Controls at the Point of Sales
Other successful tobacco and alcohol control strategies target limits on product availability through distribution controls on opening hours or days for retail sales, the controlled placement and location of retail markets, and density of sales outlets, as well as limits on who can legally purchase the products. Reducing the density of retail alcohol outlets, through stricter state licensing and local zoning ordinances, especially in lower income communities, has been shown to reduce alcohol-related problems in controlled studies.

A reasonable parallel for sugar would tighten licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell sugary products in schools and workplaces. States could apply zoning ordinances to control the number of fast food outlets and convenience stores in low-income communities, and especially around schools, while providing incentives for the establishment of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Another option would be to limit sales during the time intervals of school operation, or to raise the age limit for purchase of soft drinks.  Indeed, parents in South Philadelphia recently took this upon themselves by blocking children from entering convenience stores after school. Why couldn’t a public health directive do the same?

Controls on Advertising and Marketing
Advertising shapes children’s perceptions about alcohol and tobacco, encouraging pro-drinking attitudes and greater consumption. Voluntary agreements among manufacturers and distributors have rarely been enforced or monitored, and, naturally, sugar vendors favor voluntary policing.

In contrast, government-imposed regulations on the marketing and promotion of alcohol to youth have been quite effective. Thus far, the U.S. government has not imposed a ban or careful monitoring of the marketing of high-sugar content products to children. Some communities, such as Santa Clara and San Francisco, CA, have however instituted toy bans on Happy Meals.

Subsidization
Reduced fructose consumption could also be fostered through subsidization — by limiting access to soft drinks and promoting access and consumption of healthy alternatives in low-fructose, high-fiber foods. Promotion of such foods in U.S. low-income programs such as Women, Infants, and Children, and Food Stamps is an obvious place to start.  Unfortunately, the petition by New York City to stop subsidization of soft drinks within the Food Stamp program was denied by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Recommended Actions for the FDA
Ultimately, food producers and distributors must reduce the amount of sugar added to foods. But sugar is cheap, sugar tastes good, and sugar sells, so companies have little incentive to change. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already has the power to instigate change at every step in the production pipeline: from farmers, to food processors, to marketers, to suppliers, and ultimately, consumers. Although one institution alone can’t turn this juggernaut around, the FDA could “set the table” for change.

Since fructose acts as a chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin analogous to alcohol, the FDA should consider removing fructose from the Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) list, which currently allows food manufacturers to add unlimited amounts to any food.  Opponents will argue that other nutrients on the GRAS list, such as iron and vitamins A and D, can also be toxic when over-consumed. However, these substances have no abuse potential, as does sugar. Removal from the GRAS list would send a powerful signal to the European Food Safety Administration and the rest of the world, now facing the same crisis of obesity-related illness that America has been struggling with for the past 30 years.
REFERENCES

Babor, T., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G. & Giesbreacht, N. Alcohol: no ordinary commodity: research and public policy. Oxford University Press (2003).

International Regulation of Alcohol: Room, R., Schmidt, L.A., Rehm, J. & Mäkela P. Br. Med. J. 337, a2364 (2008)

Soda Taxes, Soft Drink Consumption, and Children’s Body Mass Index: Sturm, R., Powell L.M., Chriqui, J.F. & Chaloupka, F.J. Health Aff.  29, 1052-1058 (2010).

 

 

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