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Prevention Institute

September 14th, 2012

Health Reform Rapid Response: The Conversation on Prevention

Many decisions will be made in the coming months that may impact federal investments in prevention and public health. In today’s Health Reform Rapid Response, we highlight how prevention champions are already making the case that prevention works in communities across the country. The theme of the coverage emphasizes prevention’s high “return on investment” and the direct, local benefits that communities experience from prevention efforts. These messages prove especially effective against a backdrop of tight federal, state and local budgets, spiraling health care costs, and communities’ desire for flexibility to address their unique needs and priorities.

The Stories

  • James Marks, MD, Senior Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation makes the case for public health and prevention investments: "Prevention–or keeping people from getting sick in the first place, is crucial for business and that we are seeing mayors and governors around the nation recognize that having a healthy population, a healthy community and state, is attractive to business. The job of those political leaders is to help ensure and promote a good economic climate, so they have to embrace prevention too."
  • “Public Health Delivers a Big Return on Investment” in the Billings Gazette, Montana: "How do we become a healthier nation? Investing in public health is part of the answer. Of the more than $8,000 health expenditure for every American, only $250 is spent on public health. This is alarming when we consider how many medical care expenditures can be prevented through primary prevention activities. Primary prevention is public health."
  • “Door to Door in the Heartland, Preaching Healthy Living” in the New York Times: "Local governments across the country are creating dozens of such experiments with money from the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. It is part of a broad national effort set in motion by the law to nudge a health care system geared toward responding to illness to one that tries to stop people from getting sick in the first place. To that end, the law created the $10 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund, the largest-ever federal investment in community prevention."
  • “Public Health Programs Pay Off” in the Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin, Leader-Telegram: "The nation needs an unwavering investment in public health funding that will support life-saving programs and services that long have been underfunded in Wisconsin. Rebuilding public health infrastructure means improving community-based health and strengthening the capacity within public health departments. With a substantial increase in public health funding, we can strive to be the healthiest nation in one generation."
  • “Unhealthy Budget Cuts” in the Nebraska Journal Star: "The long-term health consequences, including costs, will far outweigh the short-term savings. The public health community strongly urges renewed and desperately needed public health funding. We cannot afford to wait. The future of our nation’s health is depending on it."
  • Community Transformation Grant awarded $1.8 million per year for five years to West Virginia to “build infrastructure and support for community policies, environments and systems that support healthy living,” which the Register-Herald deems “great news for our state. The changes in those counties over the past few years have included: starting or expanding local farmers’ markets, offering fresh fruits and veggies in convenience stores, increasing physical activity and fresh foods in schools, providing health options in concession stands during youth sporting events and developing walking and biking trails.”

Tips to guide your conversation

  • 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—our public health department, 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.
  • The Prevention and Public Health Fund’s unprecedented investment in community-based prevention has already saved money and lives. Community prevention funding is a smart investment that will pay off by building health. Supporters in Congress call prevention funding "one of the most significant cost controls in the health care legislation.”
  • For every dollar we spend on prevention, we see a five-to-one return on investment in just five years. We simply can’t fix our economy without it.
  • 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.

What you can do

  • Build your media advocacy skills by posting comments in response to coverage. Propose new frames, amplify unexpected voices (look outside the health department and find people and groups that can support prevention work and people who benefit). Browse our talking points on community prevention and how food environments impact health.
  • 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 additional tips on how to frame your community successes.


Communities Taking Action demonstrates successful prevention and equity efforts

View over 100 examples of successful community initiatives aimed at improving health equity.

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