Two years ago, the federal government made a historic investment in turning the country’s sick care system into a true health care system by creating the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The fund needs to be fully supported to effectively impact the nation’s ability to control health care costs and ensure this generation is not the first to lead shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.
The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and leaders from over 120 national organizations have sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Congress expressing deep disappointment on the reduced investment in the Prevention Fund, as a result of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act:
“As leaders of national organizations committed to the public’s health, we are writing to express our deep disappointment in your Administration’s support for reducing the investment in the Prevention and Public Health Fund (Fund). The proposed cut to the Fund in your FY2013 budget helped pave the way for the $6.25 billion cut that was included in HR 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which you signed into law in February. This represents an enormous step backward in our commitment to prevention and compromises our ability to make progress on cost containment, public health modernization, and wellness promotion. We urge you to publicly state your commitment to oppose any future cuts in the Fund.
Less than five percent of national health spending is devoted to public health. Prior to creation of the Fund, there was no reliable investment to promote wellness, prevent disease and protect against public health or bioterrorism emergencies. The consequences of years of neglect are clear – hundreds of billions of dollars in mandatory funding are spent each year through Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health care programs to pay for health care services once patients develop an acute illness, disability, injury, or chronic disease and present for treatment in our health care system.
Reflective of the fact that evidence-based prevention programs are the key to reducing health costs, prevention was one of the three key pillars of health reform. The Prevention and Public Health Fund was created in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and designed as a guaranteed funding stream and an ongoing commitment to prevention. While the cost of the Fund represented just two percent of the outlays authorized by the ACA, states and communities are already using these prevention dollars to build epidemiology and laboratory capacity to track and respond to disease outbreaks, train the nation’s public health workforce, modernize vaccine systems, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, reduce tobacco use, promote behavioral health, prevent injuries, help control the obesity epidemic, reduce health disparities, and build the evidence base to continually enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of these public health programs.
This small but vitally important investment is essential if we are to reduce the growth of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, which are the primary drivers in the increase in health costs. Research shows that if current trends continue, obesity rates could be expected to grow from 32 percent to 50-51 percent for men and 45-52 percent for women by 2030. Based on historic trends, by 2030 the United States would spend an additional $66 billion a year on treating obesity-related conditions, while experiencing a loss in economic productivity as high as $540 billion. According to a recent study in Health Affairs, current obesity-related medical costs total $147 billion a year, or nearly 10 percent of all annual medical spending, based on 2006 data. However, if we are able to reduce average body mass index by five percent the United States would save $29.8 billion in five years, $158.1 billion in ten years, and $611.7 billion in twenty years.”