We developed the following talking points in response to our analysis of how community prevention is, and isn't, covered in print and online media, including the blogosphere. Aligning your media advocacy activities around these themes and tailoring the talking points to reflect your community's experience will strengthen your message. Read though the talking points below, or browse by category:
Prevention saves money and lives.
Seven of 10 deaths among Americans each year are caused by preventable chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. These same chronic diseases account for more than 75 percent of our nation's health care spending. We owe it to our children and families to invest in sensible prevention strategies.
Every dollar invested in building healthy communities reduces the demand on our health care system and helps ensure that more people will be healthier for longer periods of their lives. A 5 percent reduction in diabetes and high blood pressure alone would save our country as much as $24.7 billion a year. [Tailor with local data.]
Community prevention funding is a smart investment that will pay off by improving health and preventing people from getting sick in the first place. For every dollar we spend on prevention, we see a five-to-one return on investment in just five years. Prevention helps make us, and our economy, healthier.
Community prevention is evidence-based.
Decades of research have demonstrated that investments in prevention strategies reduce rate of chronic disease and lower healthcare costs. For that reason, the Affordable Care Act created an ongoing fund to support prevention activities. The Prevention and Public Health Fund is now providing support to help communities across the country promote healthy eating and physical activity, reduce rates of diabetes, heart disease and other preventable chronic conditions and further lower people's exposure to tobacco.
The national focus on promoting healthy eating and physical activity is beginning to pay off. A number of cities around the country have reported that rates of childhood obesity have fallen. Now is the time to maintain the momentum and make America (or your community) healthier.
Millions of lives have been saved by reducing smoking rates, mandating the use of seat belts and bike helmets and improving traffic safety. Prevention works and the evidence is clear that it can help the stem the tide of the health conditions that cause the most suffering and expense in the United states. When we have strategies available that we know are effective, we can't afford not to pursue them.
True health reform hinges on community prevention.
The Affordable Care Act will not achieve its full potential to improve America's health unless investments in prevention and public health are sustained and expanded. By improving the places where people live, learn, work and play, community prevention efforts keep people from becoming sick or injured in the first place.
One of the most important parts of the Affordable Care Act was its creation of a dedicated source of support for prevention-the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Fund helps communities across the county create safe, walkable streets, promote healthy food environments, support workplace wellness, and safeguard tobacco-free air. It is helping move our country from a focus on sick care towards a system that advances health and wellness, saving money and lives in the process. Thanks to the Fund and the local efforts it supports, the health of communities across the country is improving, moving us closer to our ultimate goal: a more equitable, prosperous, and healthy future for all.
We deserve a health system that supports health, in the first place, and the Prevention Fund is helping us get there. Sadly, some members of Congress keep trying to eliminate both the Affordable Care Act and the Prevention Fund. They call it a slush fund-but we know there's nothing wrong with communities and local governments working to keep their residents healthy and out of the hospital. Cutting and gutting programs like the Fund sets us back and keeps us from doing the work that can prevent unnecessary illness and suffering and slow the incessant rise in our country's healthcare costs. We need our representatives to put health above politics and work together to ensure that all Americans benefit from health reform.
The US spends more per capita on health care than any other developing county, yet our outcomes lag far behind. Health reform and community prevention efforts are essential if we want to foster a system that truly promotes health.
The public supports prevention.
The American people support prevention. Polls show that 73 percent of Americans are in favor of "investing more money and resources in community prevention efforts to make it easier for people to maintain their health and make healthier choices."
Public support is even stronger for the kinds of prevention efforts now receiving federal support. Polls show that 80 to 90 percent of people support helping fresh fruits and vegetables into our stores, providing healthier lunches for kids, and protecting our communities and children from tobacco. These strategies protect the health of children and families.
Community prevention is local.
To win the battle against chronic health problems like diabetes, asthma and heart disease, communities must change their environments. And today, in cities and towns across the country, local leaders, churches, businesses and parents are coming together to do just that-with a little help from the federal government. These leaders know their neighbors and their communities and how to build local efforts to keep them healthy. We need to keep supporting these efforts and let our communities do what they do best.
Our communities know what's wrong, and when we work together, we can make it right. The good news is we can fix many of the health problems we face, and prevent other problems from starting. When we work together-public health departments, cities, schools, businesses, and community-based organizations-we can overcome even the most tenacious problems. We have skilled, creative and dedicated people who can make our region the best it can be.
We're working together with local businesses, faith leaders, community groups and local health departments to figure out the best ways to build health right here. And we're keeping resources and decision-making right here in the neighborhood.
Emphasize benefits to the local economy.
After years of a sluggish economy and high unemployment, things are starting to improve. Yet many communities are still grappling with high rates of unemployment and many small businesses are still struggling. In this environment, people want to know that investments by the government are being used to create jobs, aid small businesses and keep money in the local economy. The Community Transformation Grants are a great example of this. Collect these kinds of local examples and include them in your letters and columns, along with quotes from local businesses or associations. Here's a great example from "Wisconsin Brings Farm Food to the Schools -- and Keeps the Dollars Local," a piece by PI's Rob Waters that ran in Forbes:
"Since its start in the fall of 2010, the program has gradually expanded from two pilot schools ordering 750 pounds of produce from 10 local farms to this year, where 10,000 pounds of carrots, cabbage, squash, sweet potatoes and zucchini were pre-ordered in the fall from 15 local farmers. While drought conditions this year will keep the farms from being able to meet the full order, the schools are developing the capacity to use large amounts of local produce, boosting the local farm economy by providing a major regular customer. ‘We're keeping the dollars local," [Wood County's Farm to School Coordinator] Anderson said.'"
And here's a great example from Steve Tarver of the Louisville YMCA, in a letter to the editor that ran in the Louisville Courier-Journal:
"Funds from a $7.9 million federal stimulus grant (Communities Putting Prevention to Work) are making it possible for us to grow the number of Healthy Corner Stores in Louisville food deserts. ... The grant enables us to provide local store owners with new equipment, business planning, and minor construction improvements. Residents in those neighborhoods no longer have lengthy bus rides, long walks or inconvenient trips to supermarkets that exist miles away from their homes. Families will enjoy thousands more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables."
Prevention is good for business.
Healthy communities, where people can buy healthy foods and have safe places to be physically active, are good for business. Chronic disease is bad-costing businesses across the country about $73 billion a year. A healthy workforce helps local businesses save money on healthcare costs, lost work days and productivity.
Community prevention efforts also build our neighborhood infrastructure and the local economy. Bike paths, pedestrian walkways and smart public transit make it easier and faster to shop at local businesses. Instead of shipping food in from out-of-state or out of the country, our kids are eating local foods, from local farmers, prepared right here in our city. [Tailor depending on local efforts and include specific data]
Our local businesses deserve the extra boost that a healthy community will bring. Workplace wellness programs build a healthier workforce and a better bottom line: for every dollar a workplace spends on wellness programs, medical costs fall by about $3.27.
Businesses can be part of the solution by supporting prevention in their communities, and instituting wellness initiatives that make their businesses healthier places to work. Businesses will be more competitive, save money, and build health and goodwill in their neighborhoods.
Government has a role in promoting public health.
Some critics attack community prevention initiatives as an example of government overreach and assert that it is not the government's business to tell people what to eat or when to exercise. In response to this line of criticism, we've developed the following talking points that can be helpful in defusing "nanny state" pushback.
Every time you buckle your child into a car seat, you're practicing community prevention. Kids didn't use to be automatically put in car seats-parents couldn't buy them or afford them, cars didn't accommodate them, and our culture didn't support them. Public health advocates created new policies to change that-and thousands of children's lives have been saved. That's exactly the kind of shift we want to see today in in our communities. Parents and their children ought to be able to get the healthy food and physical opportunities they really need, right there in the places they live, work, play, and learn.
The Affordable Care Act--and the Prevention Fund--were passed by majorities in both houses of Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court. It's been the law of the land for over three years. President Obama ran on it as his signature accomplishment and was reelected handily. It's time to stop questioning the law's legitimacy and focus on its goals: healthier, more equitable communities.