Prevention and Public Health Fund De-funded

September 11, 2017
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Earlier today, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee voted to de-fund the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Americans are demanding cuts in federal spending, but not cuts that are pennywise but pound foolish.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund represents a strategic investment in improving health in America, which is the only way we will get a handle on rising healthcare costs. Public health experts at the CDC and WHO have estimated that 80 percent of heart disease, 80 percent of type-2 diabetes, and 40 percent of all cancers are preventable. We just need to do three things — eat better, move more, and avoid tobacco. The cost savings from realizing even part of the potential of these straightforward preventive efforts are enormous.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund represents our national commitment to making a dent in the leading cause of death, disability, and rising healthcare costs in America – chronic disease. Chronic diseases account for nearly 75 percent of every dollar spent on healthcare. Yet, we invest less than 5 percent of healthcare spending on prevention.

I have often said both on this blog and in public forums that many cost drivers in today’s health care system could otherwise be diminished if we simply focused on building on models we know work to prevent the onset and progression of costly chronic diseases. Programs working today in communities around the U.S. are making a dent, but we need to scale these local programs, so a larger, national commitment is essential to assure that these programs reach more Americans.

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That is why it is vital for the Fund to remain intact, as the potential returns on health improvement efforts are substantial. The doubling of obesity since 1987 alone accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the increase in healthcare spending and is fueling rising rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and other costly chronic conditions.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund stands both as a means to achieve a healthy America and as a symbol of our collective commitment to reducing the overall costs of healthcare spending. Yes, Congress should be working to reduce costs, but we can accomplish this with a focus on specific programs that have proven to reduce costs by curbing the growth of chronic disease. That’s a way for all sides of this debate to declare victory.