Health Advocacy Student Coalition holds inaugural assembly

Sara Schleede

Health care and politics may not always seem compatible, but for the Health Advocacy Student Coalition, HASC, these two fields came together at their inaugural assembly Thursday night.

HASC’s mission is to educate future health care professionals on policy in all levels of government and provide health advocacy opportunities. They hope to plan 10 advocacy events and increase partnerships to include 50 organizations by the end of spring semester.

“Our approach in the health care environment is to bring together as many health-related organizations as we can and all of their different views and their different goals,” said Kelsey Mumford, nursing and biology junior.

Mumford, president  of HASC, founded an opt-out advocacy group this past spring. The organization’s primary focus was to bring opt-out organ donation policy to Texas, but she decided to expand the focus of the organization to health policy as a whole, and it transformed into the HASC.

The coalition is currently composed of 27 health-related student organizations such as Student Government, Women in Medicine and the Texas Coalition of Student Pharmacists. Each month, representatives from each partner organization will meet to discuss legislation and determine the direction of their advocacy.

Mahima Ginjupalli, a researcher for HASC, introduced Texas House Bill 369, an act that aims to increase access to maternity care in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. She said while this bill has been pushed aside due to party politics, support among politicians and citizens is widespread.

“I think this is something that has a lot of potential for advocacy because people are willing to listen,” Ginjupalli said.

HASC representatives ultimately voted to table the bill.

Ridwan Ahmed, a researcher for HASC, introduced House Resolution 1222, which was also tabled. It is an amendment of the Public Health Service Act to coordinate congenital heart disease research efforts and to improve public education and awareness.

“The National Heart, (Lung and Blood) Institute are interested in it, and if they believe in it, we should, too,” Ahmed said.

Mumford said those in the health care field sometimes separate themselves from politics because they consider the two areas to be drastically different.

“(People in health care) sometimes don’t get involved, but now more than ever, the environment for health care, specifically health care policy, is really intense and escalating,” Mumford said.