Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

Fall 2020

Collective Action in the Midst of COVID-19: How the SBM Health Policy Committee, SIGs and members are Going All IN

Akilah Dulin, PhD‚úČ; Health Policy Committee Chair

Now more than ever, it is evident that SBM SIGs and members rise to overcome challenges in the midst of adversities. And, it is clear that we remain committed to translating evidence into action and advocating for policies that protect the most vulnerable communities.

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health Policy Committee decided to revise our policy position statement process. We needed to become more nimble so we could disseminate timely, relevant and impactful statements on COVID-19 and health. Not only did we need to streamline and revise our process, but we also needed to rely upon the extensive expertise of SBM membership to help get the work done.

Based on these needs, we created a COVID-19 strategic initiative to: (1) omit the proposal step from the policy position statement process; (2) speed up the statement review times; and (3) reach out directly to SBM SIGs to coalesce around a specific, time-sensitive COVID-19 topic. The positive and enthusiastic response from SBM SIGs was overwhelming!

To pilot our strategic initiative, we reached out to the Health Equity SIG leadership to ask if they would lead a statement on health disparities. From this initial partnership, the SBM Policy Position Statements on COVID-19 and Health Equity and COVID-19 and Rural Health came to fruition. While in the midst of responding to the challenges of COVID-19, our communities were also left to process the senseless deaths of Black Americans. At a time when many feel frustrated and unsure of how to help address the enduring legacy of American racism, our Health Equity SIG and Health Policy Committee mobilized once again and developed a SBM Policy Position Statement on Policing Reform and Anti-Racist Research.

Based on the successes of our pilot, we reached out to the Child and Family Health and Violence and Trauma SIGs. The Child and Family Health SIG is working to finish a policy position statement on COVID-19 and mental health services while the Violence and Trauma SIG is finishing a statement on COVID-19 and intimate partner violence. Please be on the lookout for the release of these position statements on Twitter via @SBMHealthPolicy and be sure to disseminate them widely to your social networks.

In addition to our committee’s strategic COVID-19 initiative, individual SBM members continue to support the policy mission of SBM. Many of our fellow members’ delayed the release of their position statements due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Stigmatizing Language and Substance Use, SNAP and Small Food Stores, Public Charge Rule and Food Security, and the Promotion of Vaccination Adherence.

Other SBM members created new position statements on COVID-19; one statement aligned with SBM’s climate change initiative (COVID-19 and Heat Deaths) and another highlighted the critical issue of COVID-19 and food insecurity (Increasing Federal Food Assistance During COVID-19).

The scope and depth of policy work done by SBM SIGs and members in the past five months is astounding. We appreciate the positive response of SBM members and thank them for their efforts to mobilize and respond with policy initiatives specific to the current state of the world. For those of you interested in policy work, please consider submitting a SBM policy position statement.

The policy work also hinges on the efforts of the Health Policy Committee members. We would not be able to move this work forward without their insights. Therefore, I would like to recognize and extend a special thank you to Health Policy Committee members Brooke Bell; Amanda Blok, PhD, MSN, PHCNS-BC; Joanna Buscemi, PhD; Marian Fitzgibbon, PhD; Laura Hayman, MSN, PhD, FAAN, FAHA; Dawn Wilson King, PhD; Sarah Miller, PsyD; Lisa Quintiliani, PhD; and Reginald Tucker-Seeley, ScD.