Junkfood Science: Trust Congress — a new Federal priority

September 28, 2008

Trust Congress — a new Federal priority

Brief policy update: Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.1381, which makes public health and preventive health an increased federal priority.

The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, with 114 co-sponsors (107 Democrats, 7 Republicans). Trust for America’s Health, which lobbied Congress, as well as developed the funding priorities precisely outlined in this legislation, issued a press release applauding the passage of the Resolution.

"Promoting healthy lifestyles will reduce the impact of devastating chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and it will save lives," said Rep. Michael Castle. "Passage of this resolution signals strong support for prioritizing prevention to improve individuals' health and lower U.S. health care costs."

The Senate companion bill, SR. 640, was introduced on July 31, 2008 by Senators Benjamin Cardin and Hilary Clinton. It was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Among its very same resolutions are claims that nearly 60% of premature deaths in the U.S. could be prevented by behavioral choices, environmental conditions and social circumstance; that preventable chronic diseases account for about 75% of healthcare spending; and:

Whereas the use of clinically-based preventive services has been demonstrated to prevent or result in early detection of cancer and other diseases, save lives, and reduce overall health care costs; and

Whereas research has shown that investing in community-level interventions that promote and enable proper nutrition, increased access to physical activity, and smoking cessation programs can prevent or mitigate chronic diseases, improve quality of life, increase economic productivity, and reduce health care costs: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) recognizes that, in order to reduce the disease burden and health care costs associated with preventable diseases and injuries, it is imperative that the United States strengthen its public health system--

(A) to provide all people in the United States with the information, resources, and environment necessary to make healthier choices and live healthier lives; and

(B) to protect all people in the United States from health threats beyond their control, such as bioterrorism, natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, and environmental hazards;

(2) commits to creating public health strategies to eliminate health disparities and improve the health of all people in the United States, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status;

(3) supports the prioritizing of public policies focusing on the prevention of disease and injury;

(4) calls for community-based programs to support healthy lifestyles, including programs that promote proper nutrition and increased access to physical activity;

(5) urges the expansion of clinical preventive activities, including screenings and immunizations; and

(6) pledges to help significantly improve the health of all people in the United States by supporting increased investment in Federal public health programs.

The primary causes of premature death in the United States and other developed countries are, of course, heart disease, cancer and alzheimer’s. These chronic diseases of aging, politicians appear to believe, are people’s own faults through improper lifestyle choices and are preventable. But only politicians and government bureaucrats could ignore the good news evident in the government’s own statistics and turn it into a national health crisis.

We will likely see more press releases like the one last week sponsored by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca LP and the National Committee for Quality Assurance, calling for a complete overhaul of our nation’s health care system by first addressing ‘preventable’ chronic problems, primarily obesity. As Associated Press reported:

Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee calls for health changes

The nation’s health care system can’t be overhauled without first addressing preventable health problems, particularly obesity, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Tuesday. The former presidential candidate told a crowd of health insurers and care providers that politicians tend not to focus on preventable chronic health problems… He compared dealing with healthier living issues to anti-littering, seat belt and anti-smoking campaigns that took decades to take hold… according to a Trust for America’s Health study released last month. South Carolina ranked seventh for childhood obesity at nearly 19 percent.

“The sad fact is for the first time since 1776 and the 232 years of this nation’s history, a child born in America today, because of the impact of obesity and childhood-related chronic diseases, is the first kid in the history of this nation who is not expected to have a life span equal to or greater than that of his parents or grandparents. Never happened before,” Huckabee said…

Emma Forkner, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, told the gathering that obesity is taking a toll on state taxpayers, too. An analysis of South Carolina Medicaid data claims showed 1,100 of 100,000 children were being treated for obesity in the Medicaid program compared with 195 out of 100,000 among private employers. [Once again, mandating clinical guidelines calling for extensive screening tests and interventions for fat children receiving government health coverage and then blaming them for the costs and adding it to the “costs of obesity.”]

Forkner expects new preventive care programs the state has begun using will help cut costs.

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