Health Reform Rapid Response: the conversation on prevention
With the Prevention and Public Health Fund under continued attacks, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is right: “We’ve got this window, we’ve got to show movement and momentum...otherwise we’re going to lose the opportunity.”
Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard from Senators, Representatives, and Administration officials speak up on behalf of the Fund. But what is sorely lacking are champions at the local level broadcasting their communities’ success stories to policymakers. Our legislators need to know community prevention works, that it is already increasing access to healthy food and increasing opportunities for physical activity in safe, open, and smoke-free spaces for hundreds of thousands of children and families across the country.
- Last week, long-time prevention champion Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction insisting that the Fund be left intact, highlighting the fact that “The Prevention Fund is not only good for the physical health of our nation, but for our fiscal well-being as well.”
- Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA also spoke up for the Fund last week, recommending to the Joint Select Committee that “[b]ecause of their enormous potential [Prevention and Public Health Fund programs] in moving the country in this direction [toward a wellness-based model of healthcare], even in these most difficult economic times, our financial commitment to these programs should remain steadfast.”
- At last week’s “State of Chronic Disease Prevention” Senate Hearing, Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh testified that the “Prevention and Public Health Fund…manifests an unprecedented commitment to ensuring that all Americans are able to achieve their potential by realizing the highest standard of health” and that “Preventing disease can save lives and money.”
- The Washington Post “For health reform’s Prevention Fund, an uncertain future,” identified an “…uncomfortable tension for the Prevention Fund, caught between a political process that demands short-term outcomes and public health programs that run on long-term strategies. […] mak[ing] the program particularly vulnerable as lawmakers look for ways to cut spending.”
- Public health administrator J. Maichle Bacon represented his community this week, penning an op-ed in the Rockford Register Star, “Focus of health care should be on prevention,” that highlighted the importance of prevention and underscored that now “[m]ore than ever in these challenging economic times we must have a strong, efficient and effective public health system to reduce the burden of preventable diseases and avoidable health care cost.”
What you can do
While it’s great to have Congressional and Administration champions for prevention, our policymakers need to hear from the communities that benefit from these investments . When our legislators hear about your successes, it makes it easier for them to stand up for what we know works.
- Take a moment and identify your local champions or spokespeople. Think about who can add credibility, a different perspective, or say something that you won’t be able to. Credible messengers:
- Add dimension and authenticity to your work
- Are unexpected—for example, a businessperson or conservative mayor
- Are respected in and by the community—faith leaders, PTA presidents, community leaders
- Speak to a new sector—big businesses, doctors, insurance companies
Have a local champion you're already working with? E-mail us their info
. National leaders are looking for local contacts to help speak on behalf of the value of prevention in their community.