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Prevention Institute

June 9th, 2011

Health Reform Rapid Response: the conversation on prevention

Last week, we shared stories of pushback on community-led prevention work and tips for how to emphasize the local, collaborative nature of prevention. Prevention advocates responded, and several letters to the editor were published in today’s Los Angeles Times. In one of the letters, Dr. Paul Simon from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health explains that “Most gains in health over the last century have been due to policy and environmental interventions…”

The Stories
Dr. Simon is right, and we need to emphasize the long, proven history of federal prevention initiatives that have improved the nation’s health and well-being, such as mandatory seat belt laws, the banning of lead in paint and gasoline, and child car seats. As Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods underscored, “Public health is all about prevention.” This week: stories on the role of the federal government in prevention.

  • In the Washington Post, “House GOP pushes back against health measures affecting school lunches, tobacco;”  fear of “government overreach” is also the rallying cry: “[House Republicans] don’t want the government to require school meals that are more nutritional but also more expensive, they don’t want the government to prod food companies to restrain marketing to children, and they don’t want the Food and Drug Administrationto regulate any substance based on anything but ‘hard science.’”
  • Over at the Cato Institute’s Liberty Blog, Walter Olson decries the Department of Agriculture’s new MyPlate icon in a blog post, “Don’t Tread on My Plate.” Olson contends that “government’s recommendations have regularly proved wrong and even damaging” and that the federal government should not be “an “arbiter” of contending dietary claims…” Olsen takes on the entire food policy movement in the Daily Caller.
  • A spokesman for the chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s agricultural subcommittee referred to the Interagency Working Group’s marketing standards as “classic nanny-state overreach.” "Our concern is those voluntary guidelines are back-door regulation," he said, making it clear that legislators are justifying defunding these proposals by dismissing them as overregulation.

Tips to Guide your Conversation:
When you’re responding to pushback on prevention in federal initiatives, it’s important to emphasize the historic government role in promoting and protecting health, and to be proud of that role:

The government has always had an important role to play in promoting public health. From child safety seats to taking the lead out of paint, our government has a long, proud history of using policy and systems change to protect the health of our children, families and communities. Kids didn’t use to be automatically put in carseats—parents couldn’t buy them or afford them, cars didn’t accommodate them, and our culture didn’t support them. Public health changed that. And today, in our community, we want children and parents to take for granted that the places they live, work, play, and learn are going to support them in healthy eating, tobacco-free environments and physical activity—not make it harder.

We can’t afford not to invest in prevention. Preventable illness and chronic disease related to unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity accounts for nearly 17% of our health care costs —that’s $168 million a year in medical costs alone. Policies that improve school foods and limit the marketing of junk food to kids are critical if we are to reverse unprecedented surges in Type II diabetes and an array of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer. 

The American people support prevention. Seventy-three percent of the American people back community prevention. Their support is even stronger for the kinds of efforts federal legislation is focused on right now: bringing more fresh fruits and vegetables into our stores, providing healthier lunches for kids, and protecting our communities and children from tobacco. These policies protect the health of children and families.

What you can do:

  • Send your congressperson a letter today, educating them about the importance of  community prevention: we’ve made it easy, with tailored emails that you can send directly to your legislators.
  • Join Prevention Institute and sign on to the National Prevention Strategy Support Statement, to demonstrate our support for the concept of having a government-wide approach to prevention.  This statement is designed to express that support for having a government-wide approach to prevention.  Deadline: close of business, Monday, June 13th.   http://healthyamericans.org/assets/files/nps%20sign%20on%20final.pdf.
  • Make sure we have your zip code. We want to be able to mobilize people right where you live. Update your information here.
  • Write a blog, op-ed or letter to the editor of your local paper.
  • Have a successful example of community prevention in action? Please share it with us so we can include it in our talking points.
  • Visit our Health Reform Advocacy page for more information.

Support the National Prevention Strategy

Join Prevention Institute in signing on to the National Prevention Strategy Support Statement, disseminated through Trust for America's Health, to demonstrate our support for the concept of having a government-wide approach to prevention. This statement is designed to express that support for having a government-wide approach to prevention.  Deadline: close of business, Monday, June 13th.  

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