Looking to the News to Make the Case
As September winds down, the debate over health reform rages on. Some in Congress are threatening to shut down the government or block an increase in the nation’s debt limit unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded. The latest proposal would eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund and delay the health reform law as a the price for raising the debt ceiling.
The latest Congressional machinations and the opening of health insurance exchanges in just a few days continue to dominate the news cycle—and that gives prevention advocates a chance to bring our message to the media and the public. We can make the links between healthcare and the need for prevention and push for media coverage of prevention stories, too. Three recent reports can help us make the case:
- This study found that children living in “smart growth communities”— communities designed with green space, mixed land use and good places to walk—have higher rates of physical activity than kids living in other neighborhoods. Add in a local angle and craft a letter to the editor, blog post, or newspaper Op-ed.
- This one from the CDC found that 200,000 deaths occur each year in the US from preventable cardiovascular disease.
- And this Wisconsin poll found overwhelming support for local prevention initiatives and investments, like requiring locally grown fruits and vegetables in schools and government facilities.
These reports highlight the benefits, the need, and the support for prevention. We can use them to make this point: If Congress succeeds in crippling the health reform law—as it has tried to do now 42 times—it would not only rob millions of uninsured Americans of the opportunity to obtain health insurance, it would also cripple federal support for prevention.
We can point out that the Affordable Care Act will not succeed in improving America's health unless investments like the Prevention and Public Health Fund are sustained and expanded. Health for all means making our communities healthy, vibrant places so fewer people get sick or injured in the first place. The Prevention Fund does just that by helping communities create safe, walkable streets, promote healthy food environments, support workplace wellness, and safeguard tobacco-free air.
Newspaper editorial sections and letters to the editor are read by decision-makers because they offer a snapshot of the public's stance on key issues. This makes them a pipeline that prevention champions can use to reach policymakers and the public. Together, we can inject our two cents into the media conversation and make the case for healthy communities, not just healthcare treatment.
Tips for sharing prevention successes in the media (find more here):
- Use real people and stories: Reporters—and readers—like to hear about real people, so look for folks from your community who have benefited from prevention efforts. Find the mom whose child is now eating healthier food due to changes to the school lunch menu. Include the family that spends less time in the emergency room or the asthma clinic because their apartment building has gone smoke-free. Tell the story of the local shop owner whose business has actually increased because the new bike lane brings slow-moving traffic to his or her doorstep.
- Back up the case with data: Include new research that demonstrates the value of prevention efforts. Findings—like those above— are released all the time and they help make the case for prevention.