Aging America poster presentation. Photo: Christi Hardeman
Lawrenceville, Ga. -- 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 provides 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.
Guest speakers at this year’s event 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, warned 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.
“The U.S. spends more money per capita for health care than any country in the world,” Patton said, “(but) it is not equally distributed across economic and racial groups.”
Patten 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 department of sociology and criminal justice 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.
Christi Hardeman, a second-year doctoral student in the School of Social Work, 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. Hardeman led the students 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.
Left to right: Kara Wickman, Andrea Perkins and Professor June Gary Hopps. Photo: Tony Lowe
The event also included a poster competition featuring student research on social policy issues. Two posters tied for first place: “Aging America: Who Will Provide Care?” 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 social work school 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.
“I tell them to look at all the ways that policy impacts lives,” said Hopps after the event. “Look at education outcomes, corrections data, employment data, health disparities. Structural inequality is still evident. To change it, you first have to understand it.”