2016 is off to a good start: On January 8, President Obama vetoed reconciliation bill HR 3762, which would have repealed portions of the Affordable Care Act, including the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Though the House attempted to override the veto on February 2, it fell far short of the 290 votes needed to pass.
In the year ahead—with your help—we’ll be looking to advance policies and investments, and pursue advocacy opportunities more broadly, to build a brighter, more equitable future for communities across the country. Here’s a sampling of what Prevention Institute will be watching for and working on in 2016:
Fiscal Year 2017 Budget and Appropriations
The annual budget cycle doesn’t sleep, especially in a presidential election year. Tomorrow, February 9, the President releases his 2017 budget request. While overall spending levels for fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2016 - September 30, 2017) have already been set through the budget deal agreed to last year, lawmakers still must determine how to spend the money. We will be closely monitoring support of community-based prevention and equity investments, including Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH).
Prevention and Public Health Fund
Throughout 2016 we’ll be working to ensure that the Prevention and Public Health Fund—a vital source of federal community prevention funding—is protected, and that the money continues to be allocated for community-based initiatives advancing health equity and wellness. To support this effort, we’ll be encouraging communities supported by the Fund to share more about their experiences and successes. With the Fund scheduled to increase 25% (to $1.25 billion) in fiscal year 2018, it is essential to keep lawmakers informed of the important work underway and of the exceptional value these investments provide to communities across the country.
Health System Transformation
Efforts to transform the U.S. health system are ongoing and strategies to rein in costs and advance population health are continuing to evolve, including the latest model from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services called Accountable Health Communities, which seeks to integrate clinical and behavioral health services with social services. These new efforts are encouraging, and there also is more work to do to advance the role of healthcare institutions and providers to include community-based approaches and initiatives—and to secure dedicated funding sources to pay for it.
Although the country has made important strides in curbing cigarette use in the past 50 years, tobacco remains a persistent threat—and e-cigarettes are an emerging one—to the health of many Americans. This is especially true for individuals with incomes below the poverty line and who have less than a high school education as well as for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Establishing comprehensive smoke-free laws, increasing the price of tobacco products, and reducing exposure to targeted tobacco industry advertising and promotions remain important strategies. Already this year, the President signed into law legislation that requires child-resistant packaging for the liquids in e-cigarettes and we anticipate several promising regulations in 2016, including one that would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate e-cigarettes and another by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would make public housing smoke-free.
Gun Violence Prevention
We are in the midst of a national debate and movement on gun violence that has primarily focused on two approaches: gun control and mental health. While there isn’t a focus on gun control legislation in Congress, lawmakers have concentrated on a series of mental healthcare reform bills, currently under consideration. Moving forward, we must work together to ensure that any efforts to increase access to mental health services, an important endeavor, does not exacerbate stigma associated with mental illness. In the wake of several recent tragic mass shootings and in response to the slow progress in Congress, the President released a series of executive orders on gun safety earlier this year. In addition, medical and public health groups are continuing to rally to end the ban on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gun violence research—a ban which has persisted for nearly 20 years. While these are all important initiatives, they will achieve only limited success if we do not also recognize the tragic toll that gun violence imposes on communities across the country—each and every day—and address the resulting trauma through comprehensive prevention strategies.
The New Year ushered in the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is updated every five years and serves not only as nutritional guidance for individuals but as the basis for federal nutrition policies and education programs. While falling short of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation to lower intake of red and processed meats across all populations and include sustainability as a key consideration in dietary advice, the Guidelines did take a strong stance on limiting added sugars. Also on a five-year timeline is congressional reauthorization of federal child nutrition programs. An agreement has recently been proposed in the Senate and is now working its way through Congress. We’ll also be watching for further delays and changes to menu-labeling requirements for chain restaurants, grocery stores, and other food businesses (now postponed until December 1, 2016) and a Food and Drug Administration regulation that would update the Nutrition Facts panel to include a measurement for added sugars.
We look forward to working with you to pursue these and other important opportunities to advance prevention, safety, and equity for all communities in 2016 and—critically—to set the tone and our expectations for the next presidential administration. Help us get started by sharing your prevention policy goals for 2016 using the hashtag #PrxAct2016 on social media.