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Blog
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Prevention is a top priority

Colleen Haller

Staff Writer

Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law last March, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been working around the clock to implement its provisions. As part of their efforts, HHS recently announced that the federal government is making a $750 million investment in prevention.

The investment will be funded through the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. This fund is one of the most important provisions in the new law, helping to move our health care system from one that is largely treatment-focused, to one that encourages healthy behaviors. The United States spends billions of dollars each year treating patients with chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis. These are some of the most common and preventable health problems in the United States.

This new investment in public health is designed to expand on four priorities, the first being community prevention. Community prevention funds will be dedicated to projects in local communities that improve health and wellness, including efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use, improve nutrition, increase physical activity, and prevent chronic diseases.

The second priority is clinical prevention. This includes efforts to improve access to preventive care, increase the availability and use of immunizations, and encourage doctors and nurses to integrate behavioral health services in their care. HHS also plans to use these funds to raise awareness about the new prevention benefits available under the Affordable Care Act.

Restoring and expanding the public health infrastructure is also an important goal of the funds. Much of the public health infrastructure, including state and local health departments, are using outdated technology, which reduce their ability to efficiently meet the challenges of their communities. These funds will be used to upgrade technology systems and train the workforce so that they are prepared to respond to any health threats and issues that arise.

The final priority is to expand research and tracking. This means collecting data to monitor the impact of the new law on individuals and communities and using that research to make recommendations on how to make further improvements in public health. Collecting evidence on how the law is actually affecting Americans will help policymakers find the best ways to build on the Affordable Care Act in the future.

These investments in public health have the potential to transform the way that the health care system operates in the United States. Treatment for chronic diseases is one of the major contributors to our high health costs. The Prevention and Public Health Fund has the potential to lower the rate of chronic disease and in turn, lower costs over the long term. This investment is the latest illustration of the progress already being made as implementation of the health care law.