This blog was written by Laura Aiken, community health specialist with WakeMed and director of Advocates for Health in Action (AHA). Learn more about AHA by visiting their website.
Like the majority of the issues related to health care reform, there is a great deal of debate about the importance of prevention in the final bill. A draft Senate bill includes $10 billion in prevention funding each year for projects that increase access to healthful eating and physical activity through projects like the construction of greenways and farmers markets.
Creating Access to Healthier Food
This is music to the ears of advocacy groups like Advocates for Health in Action (AHA), a 40 member community collaborative in Wake County that is working to make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone who lives here. AHA is in the process of creating a community assets map and is finding a lack of access to healthful foods and physical activity to be widespread across the community. There is no doubt that this is leading to increased rates of obesity and projects like those suggested in the bill will help.
A High Rate of Obesity
According to the CDC, the United States spends $147 billion each year on obesity related diseases. This is nearly three times more than the cost of all cancers combined. In North Carolina, 66% of adults are overweight or obese and we have the 14th highest rate of childhood obesity in the country. Although many in Congress agree that prevention will reduce health care costs, they are extremely reluctant to spend money on programs that some classify as wasteful spending. Many people struggle to connect providing resources for Americans to lead healthy, active lifestyles as an investment in health care.
Advocates for Health in Action sees it otherwise. Through projects such as the “Sports Snack Game Plan,” which encourages youth sport organizations to provide healthy snacks instead of junk food, AHA has witnessed an outpouring of support from parents and others who are looking for ways to make the environment healthier. People are seeking solutions and they are ready for change.
Creating a Healthier Lifestyle
There is no doubt that creating a healthy lifestyle is a hot topic right now. According to a recent New York Times article, the Department of Agriculture is welcoming ideas from community groups on how to make school food healthier and more appealing to the children who eat it. There are signs that funding for school cafeterias is being increased from Washington and private providers. President Obama added an additional $1 billion for child nutrition programs in his 2010 budget proposal, and he is even pushing to host a farmer’s market outside the White House with produce from his family’s garden.
Now is the time to make changes that will improve the health of our children. Our nation needs health care reform and prevention is the key to cutting costs and improving the quality of American’s health.