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Prevention Institute

For immediate release
September 14, 2010

Defeat of Johanns Amendment is Victory for Prevention
Senators stand up for new vision of health and wellness, not sickcare

Oakland, CA: Prevention Institute today expressed gratitude for the defeat of Senator Johanns' (R-NE) amendment to the small business jobs bill, and for the stalwart support shown for prevention by the US Senate. The amendment aimed to free business from IRS reporting red tape, but tried to offset costs by gutting the landmark Prevention and Public Health Fund. The senate, led by Senator Tom Harkin [D-IA], stood up for prevention.

"Today the Senate voted to block an attack on the Prevention Trust Fund--an attack that represented the same old penny-wise-pound-foolish thinking that now makes America's health care system so costly and ineffective," Senator Tom Harkin notes. "We have systematically neglected wellness and disease prevention in this country--as evidenced by the fact that the United States spends twice as much per capita on health care as European countries, but is twice as sick with chronic disease. This amendment perpetuated the disastrous notion that we can neglect and de-fund prevention efforts without paying a huge long-term cost in unnecessary chronic disease and disability--as well as skyrocketing health insurance premiums. In blocking it, the Senate upheld the old principle that an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure." 

The Prevention and Public Health Fund focuses resources and strategy not on sickness, but on health--through $15 billion dollars over the next ten years supporting efforts to help communities thrive.

Prevention efforts build health and reduce chronic disease through strategies as diverse as zoning that encourages more opportunities to buy fresh fruit and vegetables; restrictions on smoking; and construction of activity-friendly bike paths, parks and roadways. Though Johanns tried to build support for his efforts by deriding prevention--calling it a 'slush fund,' 'ambiguous' and not 'legitimate,'--the facts won out:

  • Prevention saves money. Hospitals spent $83 billion caring for diabetes patients in 2008 alone. At just $2 billion a year, the Prevention and Public Health fund is a smart investment that pays off, preventing people from getting diabetes and other chronic diseases in the first place.
  • Prevention works. Studies show that improving the places people live also improves their health, impacting BMI, obesity risk and chronic disease.
  • Prevention is good for business. Medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent. Workplace wellness programs have long-term health and cost-saving benefits, saving one company $4.8 million in employee health and lost work time costs over nine years.

"Prevention is good for small business, good for our economy, and good for our health," explains Prevention Institute Executive Director Larry Cohen. "The Johanns amendment tried to pit small business against the health and vitality of our communities. Our senators showed true courage today, and listened to what public health and prevention proponents are saying across the country: small businesses benefit from prevention--we all benefit from prevention."

As a national leader and capacity builder, Prevention Institute has helped build momentum for prevention efforts across the country, advocating for dedicated federal prevention funding, including the Prevention and Public Health Fund and stimulus funded Communities Putting Prevention to Work. Prevention Institute is a primary drafter of the Principles of Prevention in health reform, and works with communities, public health organizations and decision makers to implement smart, effective and quality prevention efforts.


For media inquiries,
Ann Whidden,


Prevention Institute is a national non-profit organization, established in 1997, dedicated to placing prevention at the center of efforts to improve community health, equity and well-being. The Institute specializes in building capacity among community-based organizations and government agencies at the local, state, and federal level to develop strategies for environmental, policy, and systems-level changes to prevent illness and injury in the first place. Find us at www.preventioninstitute.org.

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