Gregory Pierce, adjunct professor of urban planning and associate director of research at the Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Arizona PBS about the presence of lead in California’s drinking water. California is testing pipes and upgrading plumbing at public schools across the state, the article noted. Nearby homes typically share the same water systems, but “there’s no required testing for these privately owned places, which may result in many people not knowing that the water they are using for showers, cooking and drinking purposes may have lead contamination,” Pierce said. The article cited a UCLA report card on water quality in Los Angeles County, where some residents perceive that their tap water is unsafe. “With the lack of trust in their water, these lower-income residents and areas are now having to rely on water stores, or having to buy drinks such as juice or soda because they believe there are issues with their water.”
Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah shared her insights and latest research about sex markets and public health on the podcast Probable Causation. In studies conducted in the U.S. and abroad, Shah has found that decriminalization of sex markets has led to a decline in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), rape and drug-related crime. In Indonesia, Shah and her research partners tracked sex workers and their clients in three towns, one of which had suddenly criminalized the trade. In the illegal sex market, STIs rose 60% after public health officials stopped providing free condoms and children of sex workers were more likely to have to work to support their families. Shah acknowledged that decriminalizing sex work is a complicated policy issue due to moral objections to placing a price on sex and the common belief that banning the trade will protect women. But “current empirical evidence points toward decriminalization,” Shah said.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke to the Daily Bruin about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019-2020 state budget and its implication for undocumented youth. Newsom’s budget would allocate $98 million to extend Medi-Cal coverage until age 26 for undocumented youth, who currently are covered until they reach the age of 19. Medi-Cal is California’s part of the federal Medicaid program, which provides free or low-cost medical services to those with limited income. Akee conducted research on the effects of losing access to Medicaid and found that emergency room visits increase when the patient does not have access to health care. Newsom’s proposal would ensure preventative care and decrease the number of costly emergency room visits, Akee argues. “They have a guaranteed source of medical coverage so they would take the preventative care that otherwise results in increased emergency room visits down the line,” he said.
Cecilia Gentili of Decrim NY, which advocates for decriminalization of the sex trade. Photo by Pacific Press
Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah stressed the importance of data-backed claims in a GQ article describing the controversial New York movement to decriminalize sex work in order to make workers safer. “Many people see sex work as morally repugnant, so public policy around it is very rarely based on the actual evidence,” explained Shah, whose 2014 research findings supported decriminalization of the sex work industry. According to Shah, “A lot of people make very big assertions about this topic, but most of the time there just isn’t any data to back them up, or the methodological constraints mean they’re not able to make causal claims.” Shah’s research linked decriminalization to reductions in both rape offenses and female gonorrhea cases. Shah concluded, “Except for the growth of the market, everything else that we worry about from a policy perspective — like public health and violence against women — gets better when sex work is decriminalized.”
Public Policy lecturer Brad Rowe discussed the future of cannabis regulation with other research and policy experts at the North American Cannabis Summit in Los Angeles, featured in an article and video broadcast on ABC 7. The decriminalization and legalization of cannabis in various states across the country has prompted public health and safety concerns. Rowe commented, “It is important for us to think about insecticides, pesticides, metals, molds, other things we don’t want in our products, and this new regulated regime will help get better quality to the consumers.” Despite efforts to establish a safer market and ensure higher quality, over-regulation of the cannabis market has resulted in a growing black market. Experts at the summit concluded that, while legalization should lower production and distribution costs, over-regulation serves as fuel to the black market.
UCLA Luskin Public Policy Professor Mark A. Peterson engaged with citizens on the other side of the country during a forum on health care policy this summer. Peterson spoke at the inaugural “Egghead Evening,” organized by the Lincoln County Democratic Committee in Maine. The open sessions encourage discussion about policy-related or historical topics. Peterson, an expert on Medicare reform, HIV/AIDS policy and other national health care issues, spoke about “The Winding Road to Universal Health Care in America.” A video of the evening’s exchange can be found here.
A research article published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law by Mark A. Peterson, professor of public policy, political science and law, compares the “political vulnerability and resiliency” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the repeal of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act (MCAA) nearly three decades before. “The political-institutional contexts and the processes of coalition change could hardly have been more different for MCCA and ACA,” notes Peterson in his article, “Reversing Course on Obamacare: Why Not Another Medicare Catastrophic?” in the Duke University Press publication. “However, they had some shared vulnerabilities stemming from program design,” he argues. “The ACA survived the political weakness inherent in its policy attributes due to its particular balance and timing of benefits and costs and by being shielded long enough by election results and the constitutional separation of powers to have its benefits take root.” — Stan Paul
UCLA Luskin Urban Planning graduates Stephanie Tsai and Daniela Simunovic were joined by David Diaz of Bike San Gabriel Valley for a presentation and panel discussion on April 12, 2018, organized by UCLA Built Environment and Public Health Council. Tsai MURP ’16 works as a climate justice program associate for California Environmental Justice Alliance, and Simunovic MURP ’13 is a senior program analyst for the California Strategic Growth Council. Diaz is programs director for Bike San Gabriel Valley and also serves as a South El Monte planning commissioner. The three presenters talked about their careers, their commitment to bettering the lives of people in their communities and offered advice to current students, including the benefit of finding and cultivating mentors in their fields of interest. Student organizers such as MURP and MPH students Jasneet Bains and Rebecca Ferdman introduced the speakers and moderated a Q&A with the presenters that followed their individual presentations. Additional sponsors were UCLA Luskin Urban Planning, Environmental Health Sciences Department, UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.
The event was organized by students. Pictured, from left to right, are Rae Spriggs (MURP & MPH), Teddy Tollin (undergraduate geography major), Rebecca Ferdman (MURP & MPH), Tsai, Jasneet Bains (MURP & MPH), Diaz, Cristina Valadez (MPH), Simunovic, and Ali Goodyear (MPH). Click or swipe below to view a Flickr album of additional photos:
During a Q&A that followed his lecture, Mitchell Katz, right, engaged in a conversation about the future of health in Los Angeles and the country with former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Photo by Aaron Julian
By Zev Hurwitz
Mitchell Katz, a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow, knows of several projects that would demonstrate the potential for effectiveness of local government.
“When people talk about public policy, typically people think about Washington [D.C.] or they think about state government,” said Katz, MD, director of the Los Angeles County Health Agency during a talk May 9, 2017, at the UCLA Faculty Center. “I have to say I’ve never been interested in working in either because I like seeing problems directly and figuring out how to solve them. What I want you to think about is, ‘What are the opportunities to do interesting things at a local level that perhaps you could never do at a federal level?’”
More than 50 attendees also heard from Director of the Los Angeles Initiative and former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who moderated a Q&A that followed Katz’s discussion of experiences that employ creativity to improve public health.
For example, when HIV/AIDS was spreading in San Francisco more than two decades ago, Katz helped create a needle exchange program that drastically lowered the number of new infections. In order to bypass state laws prohibiting taxpayer-funded needle exchanges, Katz and his colleagues needed to be creative in finding a legal loophole.
“We came up with the idea that we would declare an emergency,” he said. “The idea was that this was the leading cause of death among men … and here was something that was a transmissible agent. It seemed to me that this cause of death was a public health emergency.”
Katz likened the response to AIDS during the epidemic to an earthquake, during which normal county bureaucratic channels would be bypassed in providing emergency services.
“You were on the County Board of Supervisors for many years,” he said to Yaroslavsky. “If there’s a huge earthquake, you don’t want Zev and his colleagues to follow the process of getting request for proposals and figuring out who’s going to clean up your street — you want everybody to waive all the rules.”
Because rules for emergencies are time-sensitive, keeping the needle exchange program alive meant renewing the emergency order every two weeks for the next nine years.
“This gives you some sense about how absurd it was,” he said of navigating the bureaucracy.
Needle exchanges finally became legal in 2011, yet today no federal funding can be used to pay for such programs.
Katz also spoke about his work banning tobacco sales in pharmacies, improving public housing for homeless and chronically ill patients, advancing teleretinal screenings and remote doctor’s appointments to reduce waiting time for specialist appointments.
During the Q&A, he and Yaroslavsky engaged in a conversation about the future of health in Los Angeles and the country.
Yaroslavsky had high praise for Katz. “One of the best decisions the Board [of Supervisors] made in my day was getting Mitch Katz to come to Los Angeles even though he was from San Francisco,” he said.
Associate Dean and Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris opened the event, which was co-sponsored by the Fielding School of Public Health, and she introduced Katz. She also discussed the Luskin Senior Fellows program, which pairs leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors with graduate students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for mentorship and engagement on field-specific issues.
VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development at Luskin, oversees the program, which is now in its 20th year. She noted that the fellowship program’s speaker series allows the Luskin community to hear directly from community leaders.
“The Senior Fellows Speaker Series was created to provide a public square in which these prominent community and policy leaders can discuss their roles in public service and provide insights to their efforts to solve pressing public and social policy challenges,” she said.
By Joe Luk
Debra Duardo, a 1996 Master of Social Welfare graduate from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has been selected to receive the Joseph A. Nunn Award, honoring her as the department’s Alumna of the Year. The award will be presented to Duardo in a ceremony on Saturday, April 20.
The Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year award recognizes outstanding social work professionals who have contributed leadership and service to the school, university, and/or community, and who have otherwise distinguished themselves through commitment and dedication to a particular area of social work.
Duardo is currently the executive director of student health and human services for Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the United States. As the executive director she is responsible for the administrative oversight of support services and district programs designed to address the physical health, mental health, and home and community barriers that prevent student academic success, including student medical services, school nursing, pupil services, dropout prevention and recovery, school mental health, community partnerships, and Medi-Cal programs.
In this role she manages a $100 million budget and over 3,000 employees including directors, specialists, pupil services and attendance counselors, psychiatric social workers, nurses, organization facilitators, and healthy start coordinators.
After graduating from UCLA with a major in Women Studies and Chicana/o Studies in 1994 Duardo earned her Master of Social Welfare degree at UCLA in 1996 with a specialization in school social work. Since that time she has earned her school administrative credential and is currently completing her Ed.D. in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. Following completion of her MSW, Debra started her career serving as a school social worker and the Healthy Start project director at Wilson High School.
She advanced to being the LAUSD Healthy Start District Administrator. Since that time she has served as assistant principal at Le Conte Middle School, the director of dropout prevention and recovery for LAUSD, and director of pupil services for LAUSD. Through all of these positions she has maintained her focus on the important of health and social services for children and families.
The Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year award was established to honor Joseph A. Nunn, former director of field education at the Department of Social Welfare at UCLA. Dr. Nunn brought leadership and service to UCLA and the Social Welfare program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for over two decades. Dr. Nunn received his B.S., M.S.W. and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA. After working as a probation officer for 15 years, he became a member of the field education faculty in 1980, and except for a three-year, off-campus appointment, remained at UCLA until his retirement in 2006. During his last 15 years, he served with distinction as the director of field education and, simultaneous for the last decade, as vice chair of the Department of Social Welfare, where he supervised the field education program.