Health Reform Rapid Response: The Conversation on Prevention
While the upcoming election dominates national media outlets, public health advocates across the country have been busy making their voices heard. This is a crucial moment to highlight prevention work unfolding in communities across the country. We know that in the months ahead, prevention initiatives will likely face an array of threats, from sequestration to the potential for more targeted cuts to the Prevention and Public Fund, like the cuts we’ve seen over the past year.
When community prevention initiatives work, it’s easy to take major gains in health and equity for granted. Successful community prevention can look like safe streets and neighborhoods, access to healthy foods and places to play, breathable air and drinkable water. These kinds of common-sense solutions don’t naturally make headlines the way accidents and problems do. It’s up to us to reflect the impact of these investments by making prevention visible.
This week, we’re highlighting local news stories that capture prevention work underway right now from Alaska to South Carolina.
- Juneau Empire, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium: “Communities have the best ideas about what will work for them,” SEARHC Community Transformation Grant Program Manager Martha Pearson said. “The Community Transformation Grant program gives communities the opportunity to develop and implement their own initiatives to prevent chronic diseases, which are the leading causes of death and disability in Southeast Alaska.”
- The Travelers Rest Tribune, Greenville, South Carolina: "The grant provides a tremendous boost to expand the efforts already underway in Greenville County Schools," said Greenville County Schools Superintendent W. Burke Royster. "We all know the importance of good health to the academic performance of our students and to the well-being of our employees. The healthier our employees are, the better they are able to deliver services to our students and help us create a healthier community throughout [the county]."
- The Highline Times, Seattle-King County, Washington: “We are thrilled to hear of HHS’s decision to award a Community Transformation Grant to our region”, said [Healthy King County Coalition] Co-Chair Nicole Sanders. “HKCC members have seen first-hand the results this sort of funding can make. This work helps us to move, it increases the nutritional options for both the old and young and helps people to breathe easier. This work allows all of us to live more fulfilled lives.”
- The North Bay Business Journal, Sonoma County, California: “This is a groundbreaking example of local communities benefiting from federal health care reform,” Supervisor Shirlee Zane said in a statement. “Our innovation and partnership here in Sonoma County set us apart, and the federal government clearly recognizes our efforts as worthy of its investment. These funds will improve the health of everyone in our community as we build a focused prevention effort.”
- New Ulm Journal, Brown County, Minnesota: Karen Moritz, Public Health director for Brown County, said, "Brown County Public Health is very excited about the opportunities this grant will provide to improve the health and well-being of the residents in our community. We look forward to working with Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU) to create policies, systems and an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles that will lead to the prevention of chronic disease and make our community an even better place to live, work, and play.”
- Independent Tribune, Cabarrus Region, North Carolina: “This initiative is a unique approach to addressing chronic diseases, which are responsible for 75 percent of health care costs in the United States,” said William Pilkington, CEO, and public health director of Cabarrus Health Alliance. “The Community Transformation Grant will transform where our residents live, work and play so that they may lead healthier, more productive lives.”
Tips to guide your conversation
Our national conversation around policy and systems changes to support health reflects a desire for local control and decision-making. When you share your community prevention work, emphasize that community prevention draws on local knowledge, values and resources, with community-level decision-making at its heart. Community prevention connects local businesses, community groups, local health departments, schools and other public institutions to find the best ways to build health where they live.
To demonstrate that community prevention is local, you may want to elevate community partnerships that have been created or strengthened, highlight the decision-making process and role of local leadership, and show the involvement of “real people” in community solutions.
Here are a few tailored talking points to help you emphasize local control of prevention work in your community:
- Chronic diseases related to unhealthy food options, availability and promotion of tobacco products and lack of safe places for physical activity are one of the biggest drains on our economy. We’re rolling up our sleeves and doing just what Americans do best: finding innovative solutions. The federal government has dedicated the resources, but our solution is unique—because our local leaders, churches, businesses and parents know best what works for us here.
- When we move our country from a focus on sick care towards a system that advances health and health equity in the first place, we are saving both lives and money, and paving the way toward a more equitable, prosperous, and healthy future for all. Community prevention initiatives are supporting communities across the county in creating safe, walkable streets, promoting healthy food environments, supporting local worksite wellness, and keeping the air free from tobacco.
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).
- 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.