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Photo: Axios

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said at at Axios event Thursday that she's calling on local communities to help Congress address "negative social determinants" like food deserts or unsafe housing.

Why it matters: Social determinants are social factors that harm long-term health. Bustos, who introduced the Social Determinants Accelerator Act, wants local communities to tell Congress directly what they need to tackle problems.

What she's saying: "The idea is that we do this call to action, people get back in touch with us, we use that to write future legislation," Bustos said.

  • "But the whole idea of the $153 million is that we say 'communities, tell us what your problems are, apply for this money, use this money to investigate the root cause of this and then use this money to help fight the negative social determinants,'" she added.
  • "It's not just doing this so-called 'let's study this,'" she said. "You know how that works in Congress, there's a lot of 'let's just study this.' This $153 million goes beyond that. It's let's study it and then let's tackle it."

Watch the full event here.

Go deeper

Updated Jul 29, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on social determinants of health

On Thursday, July 29 at 12:30pm ET, Axios senior editor Sam Baker and health care reporter Caitlin Owens hosted a virtual conversation on the social determinants of health, featuring Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Mary T. Bassett, director of Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights.

Rep. Cheri Bustos discussed how Congress is working to address inequities in social determinants of health and how the pandemic exacerbated inequities in resources for care.

  • On empowering local communities to address social determinants of health: “We now are advancing [the Social Determinants Accelerator Act] in the House with the idea being, let's investigate what the social determinants are. Let's let local communities apply for that money and then have the money in that program to actually do something about it once those negative social determinants are discovered through investigation.”
  • On the pandemic’s influence on health care: “We're living in a whole new health world because of this pandemic. What we've learned is that telehealth can be an important part of somebody's health. That all of a sudden you don't have access to mass transit because you can't leave your house. It is a problem to be able to get that health care.”

Mary T. Bassett unpacked these issues from the public health perspective, focusing on equity in access to healthy living, and the current challenge of the pandemic.

  • On unequal access to care: “The 20th century saw the biggest advancements in life expectancy that have been documented in human history, but they weren't experienced equally. And that's a problem. And it wasn't just a problem of access to health care, although we all have the right to access to health care. In my view, it's also just about access to all the things that make up a healthy life.”
  • On the vaccine and mask mandates: “It is truly a case of the challenge of public health, which is the need to protect the many and the need to protect individual rights, they have to be balanced. And on that scale, public health always puts the protection of the majority of people as carrying more weight.”

Axios chief people officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top Segment with EVP & Chief Medical Officer Employer & Individual at United Healthcare Dr. Rhonda Randall where they discussed how to address health disparities through tools and initiatives.

  • On building a more sustainable, equitable health system: “Research has shown that in addition to that, there are many factors contributing to and driving our health outcomes. And ultimately, it's where we're spending our time. It's not in the doctor's offices, in our communities, in our homes and in our places of work. So things like housing, education, food insecurity and transplant, transportation and access to care are important. And those social determinants of health and advancing health equity is really integral to building that future sustainable, modern, high performing health system.”

Thank you UnitedHealth Group for sponsoring this event.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

2 hours ago - World

Hong Kong holds first "patriots only" elections

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a news conference last Monday. Photo: Lui Siu Wai/Xinhua via Getty Images

Hong Kong's elections to choose the city's Election Committee members opened to a select group of voters on Sunday, under a new "patriots only" system imposed by China's government.

Why it matters: All candidates running to be members of the electoral college have been "vetted" by Beijing, per Reuters. They will go on to choose the Asian financial hub's next leader, approved by China's government, and some of its legislature.