Monday, President Obama proposed $3.5 billion in cuts to the federal Prevention and Public Health Fund as part of the President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction. Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted in support of a proposed FY 2012 budget that includes an increase for Community Transformation Grants—part of the Prevention and Public Health Fund—to $280 million, more than doubling the amount in the 2011 budget. These mixed messages make one thing clear—our government sees the value of prevention, but this funding continues to be vulnerable when tough fiscal cuts are on the table.
We need to make sure our government actions reflect what we already know: this federal funding is critical to support the health and vitality of our communities, and to save a struggling economy being sunk by health care expenditures for preventable conditions. Cutting prevention may seem to save a few dollars in the short run, but it will cost an enormous number of lives and money in the long run.
Federal prevention dollars offer the opportunity to bring prevention efforts to communities with the greatest need, and hold the potential to address underlying inequities in those communities, but without sustained support for prevention funding, these goals will not be realized. Prevention shows a 5-to-1 return on investment. Cutting 3.5 billion in prevention would shut the door to as much as $20 billion in potential savings in health care costs in the future. Without prevention, our workforce will be less healthy and productive, our chronic disease and injury rates will continue to climb, and hundreds of thousands of children, families and communities will still be isolated from healthy foods, safe places to play and smoke free environments.
Prevention is a game changer. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are already seeing the benefit of community prevention dollars. Children are eating better school lunches, grown by local farmers. Neighborhoods are moving cigarettes off of local corner store shelves and replacing them with fresh fruits and vegetables. Kids and families are playing—and breathing easier—in smoke-free parks. Community economies are being revitalized, bolstered by better transportation and increased local investment. Employers are investing in the health of their employees, with workplace wellness programs that provide healthier options. These changes in norms and environments build ever stronger momentum for community health.
It is critical that we work together over the next few weeks to send a united message: We need more investment in prevention, not less.