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Guest Opinion: On Your Side, Helping You to Deliver the Health Care All Oregonians Deserve
by Suzanne Bonamici, Candidate for Oregon's First Congressional District 

My first experience dealing with the challenges facing our health care system happened when I worked for Legal Aid as a community college student. I witnessed the tragedy people experience when they do not have access to care. Medical bills can create a downward spiral of debt and other negative consequences in the lives of families. It was my job to do all I could to get these people back on solid financial ground.

This experience along with my work as a state legislator on the Health Care Committee, the Subcommittee on Health Policy, and the Mental Health Caucus, has helped to solidify my conviction that we need affordable and accessible health care for all.

We certainly aren’t there yet, but credit is due to those at the local, state and federal level – and to groups such as yours – who are trying to change our health care system for the better. And there is certainly a lot at stake. Right now, paying for health care is a struggle for families and small businesses. We need a system that is focused on health and is truly accessible so that when people need care, they can get better. When people are healthy, our families, communities and businesses thrive.

We still have a long hill to climb. Health care reform is something we need to work at continually until we reach the day when everyone has access to affordable, preventive and proactive health care, and I look forward to continuing our work together. Nurses are on the front lines of our health care system, and as a state legislator and a parent, I hold your thoughts and concerns about health care policy in high regard.

In Congress, I will work with you to increase funding for nursing workforce development programs and to eliminate arbitrary barriers that limit the ability of nurses to provide care to the full extent of their education, licensure, and training, especially in rural and underserved areas. It will also be important to strengthen the role of public health, which is often one of the few resources available in rural areas.

Environmental health is also something I care deeply about. Environmental factors have an impact on our health, especially the health of children and other vulnerable populations. This is why I passed a bill in 2009 to reduce pesticide use in and around all Oregon schools.

For over a year beforehand, I chaired a work group comprised of stakeholders, scientists and citizens to develop the legislation. At the time, 87 percent of Oregon’s school districts reported using pesticides and 72 percent had no pest control policy. The legislation curbs the use of potentially dangerous chemicals and requires school districts to adopt pest control policies that reduce risk to children and staff. For this work, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters gave me the "Protector of Children’s Health” award.

I share this example to demonstrate how I get things done. I see a problem, gather every one around a table, and in a collaborative manner, deliver results. It is how I have conducted myself as a community volunteer and as a legislator, and it is how I will conduct myself as your next member of Congress.

So thank you – thank you for the work you do and thank you for your support in this campaign. It is an honor to have the endorsement from a group of professionals who make a difference in the lives of Oregon families each and every day.

- Suzanne Bonamici
Candidate for Oregon’s First Congressional District

P.S. Remember to vote on January 31!

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