New Obama Appointee Understands Connections Between Health and Economy

Barack Obama yesterday announced his new economic team, which includes
Melody Barnes, a former Senior Domestic Policy Adviser to Obama during
his bid for the presidency.   Although she is well-known within the
progressive community, the public is not as familiar with Barnes or her
position on key domestic issues. Barnes is a former Executive Policy Director at the Center
for American Progress; she’s also served as chief counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

During the presidential campaign, I had an opportunity
to have a one-on-one with Barnes during which she talked at length
about the importance of addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a key to
addressing urban renewal programs.

Barnes said:

"Barack sees an urban agenda that tries to help people
with [the] disease have access to health care," Barnes said. "He
recognizes a larger hole in that strong families make up strong
communities, and if you are sick and struggling, you are not going to
have a strong family."

Barnes said Obama has also been vocal about HIV testing and about
challenging the African-American community to address the HIV epidemic.

"This is a matter of life and death," Barnes said.

In a powerful piece published in 2007 on the Washington Post, the day before President Bush’s State of the Union speech, Barnes also said:

Domestically, no need is more urgent than fixing our
broken health care system. Today, nearly 47 million Americans have no
health insurance. And those lucky enough to be insured are seeing the
cost of their premiums soar. At the same time, the uninsured cannot
afford screening for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or even get a flu
shot – and our health care system as a whole places far more emphasis
on treatment than it does on preventing disease in the first place. As
a nation, we dedicate only three percent of our health dollars to
health promotion, but over 20 percent of our health care dollars to
care in the last year of life. We must guarantee affordable coverage
for all Americans. At the same time, we must also overhaul our health
care system so that we make wellness and disease prevention a national
priority. The Wellness Trust will create incentives for health care
providers, employers, schools and individuals to focus on prevention,
and preventative care will be available to people outside of a doctor’s
office. Preventive services will be covered whether they are delivered
in pharmacies, supermarkets, on the job, at senior centers, or
elsewhere in the community.

By appointing policy leaders like Barnes who see the connections
between health and the economy, Obama appears to have pulled together
an economic team that reflects many of the goals he set out during his

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

  • invalid-0

    that as the “greatest nation on earth” the basic health of our citizenry is so lacking.
    I hope that we can finally get a nationalized health care plan in place (like the NHS of the UK). It would be far cheaper (since the entire country would be “buying in bulk” as it were) there would be no decrease in the levels of care, there wouldn’t be an insurance company tellign you & your docotr what they will pay for and there wouldn’t be any insurance company choosing your doctor for you!

    I look forward to having intelligent & qualified people in government once again who actually care (or at least seem to) about what the American people want.

  • gideon

    Health problem could leave a major strain to our budget that’s why it is better to take care of your health rather than setting it aside and suffer for the consequences. Our economy is in shamble. Keeping our economy going is good for national security.  Dennis Blair, the Director of National Security, has warned as much.  Many things on the global scale are tied intrinsically to the U.S. economy, such as aid programs in Africa that gives out payday loans to needy countries.  Also, the international system of finance is closely tied to our lending institutions, and foreign manufacturers supply the goods we have a demand for.  The warning is that some programs, such as international aid, could break down if we don’t get our economy back on track soon enough, which is why we need the payday loans to get things moving again.