On April 29, 2014, at the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans Vice-President and Director of Medical Programs Dr. Joseph Boffa was elected to one of the six Alliance for Retired Americans Community Advocacy Network (CAN) Executive Board positions. Dr. Boffa is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy & Health Services Research at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.
The mission of the ARA CAN is “to bridge the missions of the Alliance to community-based organizations. The ARA works to ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for all citizens so that they may enjoy lives of dignity, personal and family fulfillment, and security. The CAN will strive to broaden this fight to include not only retired union brothers and sisters, but all older Americans with whom we share the brother and sisterhood of humanity, of a common cause.”
Dr. Boffa has a long history of advocating heath reform to improve the lives of seniors. He has developed, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, benefits that include oral health, vision care, hearing aid, and pharmacy benefits. In 2000, with the support of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and a coalition of labor and community based non-profits, he obtained funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Aging Program. Over the past decade and half, a wellness program called HealthLink Wellness was initiated with the strategy of developing partnerships that engage the retiree through social networks in fostering self-improvement in health related behaviors. It also developed a network of primary care physicians to join in its social outreach efforts, an environment where community resources, medical offices, and patients work together as a team.
During the past decade, Rhode Island community and labor retiree organizations have come together to establish the Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans, a chapter of the national ARA. This brought HealthLink and other Rhode Island retiree programs under the umbrella of national support. Dr. Boffa’s new position with the CAN will give him an opportunity to broaden his advocacy on behalf of our nation’s retirees.
In his summary of this new position, he states that he will now be able to not only work on his past health related efforts, but also enter a dialog concerning social security and pension reform. Jobs will also be on the top of his list. Though that may not at first seem a concern of retirees, a robust economy is a key ingredient in maintaining the viability of our nation’s current safety net, while also preserving those benefits for future generations of retirees.
The ARA has historical roots that go back to the presidency of John F. Kennedy. One of his administration’s priorities was for Congress to pass Medicare Legislation. The AFL-CIO, in support of the Medicare Bill, established the National Council of Senior Citizens. It was an organization that lobbied for and was instrumental in the 1965 passage of Medicare during the administration of Lyndon Johnson.
By 2000, the AFL-CIO decided that the National Council should be reorganized to broaden its base of community support. The ARA was launched in 2001 by a broad coalition of community-based organizations and AFL-CIO affiliated unions.
A version of this article first appeared in a press release distributed by the Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans.