Also missing from the presidential debate: public health

Who won Wednesday's debate? Certainly not the audience.

By Michael Yudell

A lot was missing from the presidential debate. A moderator, for one, would have been helpful (does anyone know the whereabouts of Jim Lehrer?). An energizing debate on the issues would have been most valuable, considering what’s at stake. The debate was so boring to all but the most fervent Romney supporters that comedy writer Andy Borowitz reported that “millions of Americans lost consciousness on Wednesday night between the hours of 9 and 10:30 P.M. E.T.”

All kidding aside, also missing was much mention of pressing public health issues. True, there were words about the Affordable Care Act, and the president did muster a defense of his signature legislation in the face of Romney’s threat to repeal it. (My colleague Rob Field has posted an excellent analysis of that part of the evening on his new blog, The Field Clinic.) Still, most of the health-care discussion centered on the economic impact of Obamacare and false death panel-like claims made by Romney. On the impact of providing health insurance for most Americans, long-term and short-, not so much.

And women’s health? Given fundamental differences between the two parties, it is hard to believe there was no discussion of the birth control provisions of the Affordable Care Act or abortion policy. How about something less controversial: Why it is so important for women over 40 to get annual mammograms, and how the ACA requires Medicare and most private insurance to cover them with no copay or other out-of-pocket costs? It is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, after all.

Climate change? There was discussion of green energy, a potential remedy for our warming planet, but neither candidate uttered the phrase climate change or discussed its implications for our health and infrastructure.

With the 2008 financial meltdown still affecting millions, the impact, both economic and physical, of poverty on our nation’s health was never brought up. How many Americans must suffer in poverty before we finally address this lingering problem?

Other issues – from curbing the obesity epidemic to gun violence to the environmental and public health impacts of fracking – apparently weren’t even a consideration. Let’s hope that CNN’s Candy Crowley – and the candidates – show up better prepared for their Oct. 16 debate.



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