U.S. Senator Smith’s Legislation to Strengthen Public Health Measures Takes a Key Step Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/17/22]—This week, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed the bipartisan PREVENT Pandemics Act, which includes several important pieces of U.S. Senator Tina Smith’s (D-MN) public health legislation. 

“The COVID pandemic has further exposed the inequities and weaknesses in our public health system,” said Smith. “The PREVENT Pandemics Act would ensure we are better prepared in the future and that we have the resources to confront these challenges. I am proud we were able to include several of my bills in this package and look forward to voting on it on the Senate floor.”

The PREVENT Act includes the following legislation introduced or co-led by Senator Smith:

  • The Improving Social Determinants of Health Act, introduced by Smith and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT.), addresses the social, environmental, and economic conditions that exacerbate health inequities in Black, Brown, Indigenous, and communities of color. Specifically, it would provide grants to develop initiatives that improve health outcomes. Smith also worked alongside Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to successfully secure 5 percent of the bill’s funding for Tribes, Tribal organizations, urban Indian organizations, and Tribal health departments.
  • The Strengthening the Public Health Workforce Act, introduced by Smith along with Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would reinforce and expand the public health workforce amidst shortages. Specifically, it reauthorizes the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program to provide education loan repayment assistance to eligible individuals who work in a state, local, or Tribal public health department, and would evaluate the public health workforce during the COVID pandemic.
  • Legislation to utilize Real-World Evidence in the FDA Approval process, introduced by Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) and co-led by Smith, would enable the FDA to develop a clear protocol for the use of real world evidence during the approval process. The bill could save time and lower costs associated with this process, ultimately lowering prescription drug and device prices for consumers.
  • One Health Framework, which Smith negotiated into the package, strengthens language from previous appropriations bills that require the CDC to develop a One Health framework. The provision requires CDC to coordinate with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to develop a federal One Health framework and to issue a report to Congress on the One Health framework and coordination activities. 
  • Onshoring Essential Antibiotics Act, which would allow HHS to award contracts to increase domestic production of essential, generic antibiotics.  Manufacturers must use funds to build, expand, upgrade, modify, or recommission a facility located in the United States to support increased manufacturing capacity of essential, generic antibiotics.  Smith successfully advanced a bipartisan amendment with Senator Cassidy (R-LA) to add this bill to the package.   
  • Legislation Supporting Community Health Workers, which reauthorizes and improves an existing federal grant program to promote utilizing community health workers to promote healthy behaviors and outcomes for populations in medically underserved communities. It would also expand grant eligibility to include Tribes and Tribal organizations. Smith co-leads this legislation with Senator Casey (R-PA).

Smith has long pushed to strengthen the country’s public health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, Smith has led the bipartisan push for further investment in global COVID-19 vaccination efforts. And in 2020, Congress enacted Smith’s measure to require public health programs and private insurers to cover the cost of coronavirus tests. To ensure testing is truly free for Americans, Smith also introduced the Stop COVID-19 Test Surprise Medical Bills Act in 2021.