March 23, 2011—In the past two years, our nation has made an historic investment in prevention and wellness with the goal of helping communities thrive—led by local communities and supported by the federal government. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, then through Prevention and Public Health Funding from the Affordable Care Act, community prevention efforts are transforming the places where people live, work, play and learn. As representatives of the communities striving to improve the health of residents using this approach, we wanted to share with you the impact, the importance and the value of this landmark initiative.
Healthy people live in healthy, safe and equitable communities. Almost nothing affects our health as profoundly as the places we live. People thrive when they have jobs and live in communities with safe affordable housing. They thrive when they have easy access to parks, playgrounds, and grocery stores selling nutritious food. Healthy communities provide the foundation and context for healthy behaviors and outcomes.
Community prevention makes that possible. Thanks to national prevention efforts including Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), neighborhoods are joining together with local businesses, faith leaders, community groups and local health departments to build health right where they live.
We are immensely proud of the work happening across the country. Chronic diseases related to unhealthy eating, smoking and lack of physical activity are one of the biggest drains on our economy. The American people know it, and they are rolling up their sleeves and doing just what America does best: finding innovative solutions. The federal government has dedicated the resources; and the ideas and solutions in each neighborhood are unique, because each of our communities knows what works best for them.
In Bartholomew County, Indiana, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce has created REACH Healthy Business, to support companies who are committed to creating a workplace that supports employee health. Says Chamber of Commerce president Jack Hess, "The two biggest costs grabbers for any business today are both health related-and that's health insurance increases, but also the loss in productivity based on the treatment of health-related disease, such as employee absenteeism. The bottom line is this: a healthy community is one in which companies want to locate, businesses want to grow and expand, and the best workforce in the world wants to live."
Like Columbus, Indiana, each community is choosing smart strategies that strengthen neighborhoods, promote health and improve the economy--and healthier neighborhoods today means less money spent on health care down the road.
Community prevention is as good for business as it is for health. The money invested in community prevention builds infrastructure and the local economy, keeping resources and decision-making right in the neighborhood.
In partnership with their local hospital and CPPW-funded health department, Kwik Trip convenience stores, headquartered in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, joined the 500 Club, highlighting healthier alternatives to customers in all twenty-one of their La Crosse County stores. All 113,758 La Crosse County residents can now easily find convenient, affordable healthy options, including fresh fruit that costs less than a bag of chips. Kwik Trip saw their efforts as so successful that they've chosen to bring the 500 Club to thirty more stores in neighboring Minnesota and Iowa. Kwik Trip Retail Food Service Director Paul Servais explains, "We heard from our customers that they were looking for more healthy options. We heard some people say not to go to convenience stores because there is nothing healthy to eat in them. We knew at Kwik Trip we had healthy options. This was a great way to get that message out."
Support for prevention is solid across the country. Seventy-five percent of the American people back community prevention. Their support is even stronger for the kinds of efforts CPPW is focused on right now: bringing more fresh fruits and vegetables into neighborhood outlets, providing healthier lunches for kids, and banning smoking from public places. Without the commitment and leadership of community members, from PTA's, YMCA's, churches and local chambers of commerce, community prevention couldn't succeed.
In January, 2011, the City University of New York (CUNY) approved an expanded tobacco policy that will make CUNY the largest urban public university system in the United States to go 100% smoke-free. CUNY serves over half a million students citywide and employs about 40,000 staff. New York City's health department is supporting CUNY's efforts by providing training to students and clinic staff; access to online "best practice" resources; and specialized on-site technical assistance to all 23 campuses throughout the implementation period. New York City is also helping people quit smoking in other ways. Each year the City health department sponsors a time-limited nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) program that reaches thousands of smokers. The program provides courses of nicotine patches and/or gum for those who are eligible, as well as phone-based counseling. The program has, cumulatively, enrolled nearly 250,000 smokers. It has helped about 82,000 smokers quit, preventing an estimated 27,000 smoking-related premature deaths.
Prevention makes our health care system healthier. Prevention efforts are transforming the way we think about wellness, creating a system that truly promotes health instead of solely treating illness. The $750 million we are investing in communities this year is a drop in the bucket compared to the $168 billion that chronic disease costs us every year. Every dime invested in community prevention pays off, reducing the burden and demand on our health care system, and ensuring that more people will be healthier for longer periods of their life.
In Philadelphia, nearly 500 corner stores have been recruited into the Healthy Corner Store Initiative; some local businesses have received resources for equipment upgrades, shelving and refrigeration to sell produce, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. 1000 children a day are receiving healthier meals, thanks to the USDA After-School Meal Program in 40 of the 98 recreation center after-school sites. And 200 Philadelphia schools have created School Wellness Councils, to incorporate physical activity into the school day and to eliminate unhealthy options from classrooms, fundraisers, and school stores.
Our children are now projected to have a shorter life span than their parents, due largely to preventable chronic diseases. Fortunately, we know what works-and what is working-to turn this around. Americans are putting prevention to work because they care about the health of their children, the vitality of their communities, and the devastating impact of skyrocketing health care costs on our nation. Community prevention is showing real success-and that's something that we can all take pride in and celebrate. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to maintain, and strengthen, our commitment to prevention.
We would be happy to discuss this further. For inquiries or requests, please contact Larry Cohen, Executive Director of Prevention Institute, via email (larry-at-preventioninstitute.org) or phone (510) 444-7738.
Patrice A. Harris, M.D.
Fulton County Health Services
Mary A. Balluff, MS RD, LMNT
Chief, Community Health and Nutrition Services
Douglas County Health Department, Nebraska
David Fleming, M.D.
Director and Health Officer
Public Health - Seattle & King County
Giridhar Mallya, MD, MSHP
Director of Policy and Planning
Philadelphia Department of Public Health
Sonia Manhas, Program Manager
Multnomah County, Oregon
Multnomah County Health Department's Community Wellness & Prevention Program
La Crosse County Health Department
La Crosse County, Wisconsin
Lawrence K. Sands, DO, MPH
Chief Health Officer
Southern Nevada Health District
Stacy L. Weinberg, M.A.
Director of Epidemiology, Planning & Communication
Tri-County Health Department
Serving Adams, Arapahoe and
Douglas Counties in Colorado
Paul Simon, MD, MPH
Director, Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Ann-Karen Weller RN, BSN
Director Office of Community Health and Planning
Miami-Dade County Health Department, Florida
Bob England, MD, MPH
Maricopa County Department of Public Health
American Public Health Association
National Association of County and City Health Officials
Public Health Institute
The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC)
Trust for America's Health