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HAP: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Health Policy


Some of the most critical concerns affecting the American population are outlined in President Biden’s “Unity Agenda for the Nation,” where he details several ambitious healthcare programs. The plan specifically focuses on four primary areas: crushing the opioid epidemic, solving the country’s mental health issue, improving treatment for veterans, and fighting cancer. While desirable, the feasibility and possible consequences of the proposed reforms are debatable due to political polarization. The feasibility of each activity determines barriers that stand in the way of transforming these dreams into concrete legal provisions.

Tackling the Opioid Epidemic

According to statistics from 2021, the opioid epidemic left over 80,000 individuals dead (Centers for Disease Control, 2021). To address this problem, the Unity Agenda seeks to improve nationwide access to prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services country-wide. To achieve this goal, Biden presented several different initiatives. Firstly, he proposed improving the accessibility of medication-assisted treatments (MAT), which include buprenorphine and methadone, which are effective treatments for opioid use disorder but not fully utilized (CDC, 2021). He also recommended increasing the distribution of naloxone, which is an overdose reversal medication that would supply more first responders with this life-saving drug. Additionally, he advocated for enhancements in data sharing and monitoring mechanisms across states to reduce the diversion and illicit distribution of prescription opioids.

These interventions are through expert counsel on managing the pandemic and can help to save lives. Due to the opioid epidemic’s significant impact on Americans from different locations and ideological perspectives, there is a consensus among both parties to strengthen the federal response (Centers for Disease Control, 2021). However, the Unity Agenda does not specify how it will fund these goals, implement them, or move them into concrete legislation. Until financing commitments, distribution infrastructure plans, and bipartisan legislation are released, it remains an achievable goal rather than a deliverable. The opioid death rate continues to increase, but there are no specific details on these issues (Mineo, 2023). The legislation demands that transparent budgets, clearly defined distribution mechanisms, and a scientifically based harm reduction plan be implemented promptly to enable large-scale change successfully.

Confronting the Mental Health Crisis

Similarly, even though the Unity Agenda rightfully focuses on the increasing mental health problem in the country, it does not offer a concrete implementation of change. Biden was for improving emergency psychiatric care and suicide prevention, but he did not offer any concrete policy, money, or programs to achieve these goals (CDC, 2021). With the rising suicide rates and number of psychiatric patients in emergency departments, there is an agreement among both political parties that the mental health system does not satisfy Americans (McLaughlin & McLaughlin, 2023). However, going from good intentions to effective laws will require a lot of bipartisan conversations around funding, infrastructure, and capacity building.

In order to improve mental health, advocates have recommended reforms that include increasing community-based care, integrating mental health with primary care services as well as funding suicide prevention programs, and increasing the workforce in this sector. Evidence-based approaches to suicide prevention are also researched in order to inform policymaking (McLaughlin & McLaughlin, 2023). Still, the Unity Agenda needs to discuss this expert advice or research; instead, it provides vague generalities about improving care. If the administration does not convert these objectives into concrete cost-measured policy proposals, bipartisan agreement on effective mental health reform will be improbable (Mineo, 2023). Legislative progress depends on good intentions developing into carefully constructed evidence-based policies.

Caring for Veterans

On the contrary, the Unity Agenda’s request for improved veteran health services also contains some specific policy recommendations (CDC, 2021). Biden championed tripling funding for veteran cancer screening, increasing VA telehealth services, and allocating resources to the VA to hire more staff and shorten wait times before treatments. Unlike the general goals in other parts, these are straightforward actions that legislators can assess and may adopt (McLaughlin & McLaughlin, 2023). Bipartisan support for a bill that would enhance healthcare services to veterans increases the chances of enacting meaningful legislation.

However, these goals can still be realized in the treacherous terrain of budgets and Congress. To become effective, funding commitments must be approved by both chambers and the president’s signature. Infrastructure assessment and development are also necessary to expand telehealth (Centers for Disease Control, 2021). Although significantly less politically contentious than other initiatives, veteran care enhancements require complex bipartisan agreements to draft workable legislation. However, their limited scope and the support of veterans bring hope for their eventual enactment over broad aspirations.

Taking on Cancer

Biden’s cancer initiative requests an aggressive 50% reduction in deaths from cancer over the next 25 years (CDC, 2021). This is an admirable aspiration because cancer remains one of the biggest killers in America. Nevertheless, the strategy does not suggest any defined policies or funding to undertake it except for increased investment in cancer research. Given the already steady decline in cancer mortality, this goal fails to have creative approaches to speed such improvement (Mineo, 2023). Supporters have suggested that there should be significant overhauls in prevention, screening access, treatment equity, and coordinated research (McLaughlin & McLaughlin, 2023). However, how the administration intends to transform care without involving these professionals or suggesting reforms to the system is still being determined. It is, therefore, doubtful that bipartisan unity will be reached unless there are clearly defined, budgeted policies.


In conclusion, while the Unity Agenda sets laudable healthcare goals, drafting bipartisan legislation faces numerous obstacles. The veteran care ideas are the best in viability due to their detailed clarity and support from the veteran community. However, this is only possible if significant strides are made in converting aspirations into evidence-based policies that have been costed before achieving unity becomes attainable. To ensure bipartisan work addressing America’s most pressing public health challenges, it is vital to turn good intentions into feasible action plans. The agenda lays the required ground for change, but embracing collective policymaking is imperative to exploit its potential fully.


CDC. (2021, June 22). Opioid Data Analysis and Resources | CDC’s Response to the Opioid Overdose Epidemic | CDC.

Centers for Disease Control. (2021, June 22). Data Overview | CDC’s Response to the Opioid Overdose Epidemic | CDC.

McLaughlin, C. P., & McLaughlin, C. D. (2023). Health Policy Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Mineo, L. (2023, July 19). Remember the opioid crisis? A new study finds it’s only gotten worse. Harvard Gazette.


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