The Legislature’s Public Health Committee, headed by Sen. Jo Comerford, has advanced 75 bills that, if passed, would strengthen environmental protections in the state, advance women’s health, eliminate disparities, regulate prescription drug marketing and promote better health care.
“The Public Health Committee has a responsibility to help develop and shepherd legislation to keep our Commonwealth healthy and thriving,” Comerford said. “Keeping our communities healthy reduces the need for costly medical care and promotes health equity and justice.”
Comerford said she is proud that if the bills do become law, they will make a positive impact and difference for Western Massachusetts, as well as the entire state.
The bills will now either go to another committee for review or to the House and Senate floor for a vote.
One bill, H1949/S1334, reduces racial disparities in maternal health by creating a special commission to develop recommendations to address racial disparities that incorporate perspectives from impacted communities and reversing the trend in maternal mortality in Massachusetts.
According to Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Health, pregnancy-associated mortality, defined as the death of a women during pregnancy or within one year of the termination of pregnancy, is on the rise in the state.
In 2012, there were 30.4 deaths out of 100,000 live births. In 2014, the rate increased by 33 percent to 40.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. Between 2005 and 2014, there were a total of 199 pregnancy-associated deaths identified throughout the state, and approximately one in five were related to substance abuse. the trend parallels the increase in opioid overdose deaths seen in the same period.
Researchers also found that more than a third, or 38.3 percent, of the deaths among women delivering a live birth between 2011 and 2015 in Massachusetts were fatal opioid-related overdoses. The majority of the substance use-related deaths, 90.2 percent, occurred during the postpartum period, between 42 and 365 days after delivery.
Comerford said H1947/S1291 protects youth from the health risks of sugary drinks. The bill bans marketing of sugary drinks in schools, requires warning labels on sugary drink advertisements and limits sugary beverages in children’s meals at chain restaurants.
The senator said S1216 promotes healthy communities and the environment by establishing a community health index. It requires proposed projects to complete a health and economic impact assessment to help protect the health and economic vitality of community residents.
The Public Health Committee would also like to ban the use of chemicals, specifically PFAS, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals in food packaging. Bill H3839/S1315 bans the manufacturing, sale and distribution of food packaging that contain those chemicals.
Another bill, S1309, allows pharmacists to receive additional training to prescribe and dispense hormonal birth control, encouraging them to become birth control providers as to increase the access to reproductive medical care in areas that typically lack providers.
Emergency insulin access was another issue the committee moved forward. Bill S2425 allows pharmacists to write a prescription for insulin for 72 hours in an emergency situation, like when a physician is not available to prescribe it.
Comerford said there are many more bills related to health, and all will be considered either by the next committee they go to or for a vote by both the Senate and House. If both approve the bills, or some of them, they will go to the governor to be signed into law.