Friday, October 04, 2013

CHILDREN’S HEATHCARE + PUBLIC HEALTH: "Some Things Should Be Beyond the Reach of Politics—Prevention Funding Is One"

by EMail from The Prevention Institute ::  Health Reform Rapid Response |

How the Government Shutdown Affects Public Health

October 4, 2013  ::  The shutdown has far-reaching implications for public health agencies and services, from halting the majority of the FDA’s nutrition and safety inspections, to slowing the CDC’s annual seasonal influenza and outbreak detection programs. This APHA article explains which public health services are on hold, and which will continue through the shutdown.


The US federal government largely shut down this week, thanks to those in Congress who are bent on using almost any means to block the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Despite this, health insurance exchanges also went live the same day – the first step in giving millions of uninsured Americans access to affordable health care. As these two stories dominate the news, now is a critical time to use the media to make the case for investments in public health and prevention. Here are three examples:

  • Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, makes the case in an excellent Op-ed in the Boston Globe, “The ACA’s crucial prevention component.” Frenk writes:
    “[S]ome things should be placed beyond the reach of politics — prevention funding is one of them. Making sure that sick people are getting care is a good thing, both for them and for society, but we must also prioritize upstream public health interventions to stop people from getting ill in the first place. Failure to do so will yield a vast and unnecessary increase in human suffering while also putting the nation on a fast track to insolvency. It will not save money. It will do just the opposite.”
  • Jeffrey Levi, executive director at Trust for America’s Health, writing in Slate, explains why investing in prevention and community health now will pay off down the line, in “Small Investment, Guaranteed Return."
  • And a guest editorial in the Billings Gazette points out the folly of cutting important prevention programs at a time when we as a nation are also trying to use our health care dollars more wisely.

These articles and the folks who wrote them are keeping prevention in the national public discussion on health and healthcare, but we all need to pitch in. Here are a few tips for going out and making some news of your own—through writing an op-ed, penning a letter to the editor, or even leaving a comment on a blog—that makes the case for prevention. And, be sure to browse our Media Advocacy Toolkit for help communicating about prevention with the media and tips for writing editorial pieces.

Use the government shutdown – or other big news story – as a hook for your piece. Use it as a starting place to participate in the discussion that’s already happening about chronic disease.

Pivot to the overall importance of investments in prevention. Find an angle on the story that gives you an opportunity to promote prevention. Your message could be one of these (see here for more):

  1. The Affordable Care Act will not achieve its full potential to improve America's health unless investments in prevention and public health – like the Prevention and Public Health Fund – are sustained and expanded.
  2. Prevention means that fewer people get sick or injured,  in the first place. This cuts down on healthcare costs and saves lives – it’s a smart investment.
  3. Prevention is good for business. Healthy communities, where people can buy healthy foods and have safe places to be physically active, boost local economies. And, prevention efforts can help bring workplace wellness initiatives to businesses, too.

Tell your authentic story. Speak from your experience – you’re the expert! You don’t have to be a dean of public health at Harvard, a former health minister in Mexico or an executive director of a public health organization to have an impact. Tell a story about how improved infrastructure for routes to school has helped your kid stay safe, active, and ready to learn, or talk about how a farmer’s market has made it easier for you to find and afford healthy, nutritious food for you and your family. Be sure to explain why prevention matters to you, your community, and the nation at large,

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