Health Reform Rapid Response: the conversation on prevention
With the debt ceiling crisis winding down and Congressional lawmakers heading to their home districts for the August recess, it is imperative to coordinate outreach efforts to educate legislators about the importance and success of community prevention. We’re asking you to take at least one action over August recess. Today, we’re inviting you to send a letter or make an appointment to meet with your Congressperson while they’re back in your district. Our legislators need to know that the Prevention and Public Health Fund saves money and lives.
Tips to guide your conversation
To better appeal to legislators in the current fiscal climate, it is important to describe the role community prevention plays in relieving our overburdened health care system. Here are some sample talking points (you can find more on our website):
- Seven of ten deaths among Americans each year are caused by chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes—diseases that could be prevented. These same chronic diseases account for more than 75% of our nation's health care spending. Community prevention dollars are working right now to alleviate some of these soaring costs—and improving health at the same time.
- The places we live, work, learn, and play profoundly shape our health. When neighborhoods don’t have safe parks, places to walk, vibrant retail, or healthy food available, everyone’s health suffers. Healthy communities provide the foundation and context for health behaviors and outcomes. Community prevention makes that possible.
- At just $2 billion a year, the Prevention and Public Health fund is a smart investment that will pay off by building health, preventing people from getting sick in the first place. Supporters in Congress call prevention funding "one of the most significant cost controls in the health care legislation.' For every dollar we spend on prevention, we see a five-to-one return on investment in just five years. We simply can't fix our economy without it.
- The public wants prevention. 73% of the public support resources that go to community prevention initiatives. Even when community prevention efforts are tied to higher taxes, the majority of the public still favors them.
Framing your messages to emphasize the role of the environment in shaping health outcomes, the strong evidence base for community prevention, and local control is equally important. Here's how:
- Cue the environment. Paint a picture that describes why healthy communities matter: When neighborhoods don’t have safe parks, places to walk, vibrant retail, or healthy food available, everyone’s health suffers. By cueing the environment you can shift the discussion to the environment’s impact and constraints on individual options.
- Reflect impact. Explain the reach of your local efforts—when possible, show the impact that multiple strategies have together. Illustrate the number of people involved, and how your community prevention strategies are changing behaviors. Include other benefits—more jobs, more food purchased locally, better traffic flow to local storefronts, involvement and leadership from local sectors.
- Bring a Partner. Let your legislators hear from someone outside of public health; invite a parent, student, faith leader, medical practitioner or business leader to accompany you on your visit.
- Keep it local. Emphasize that community prevention is local through your talking points: Community prevention is about helping neighborhoods to work together with local businesses, community groups and local health departments to figure out the best ways to build health where they live—whether that's putting more fruits and vegetables on a child's school lunch plate, or making the local park safer so a mom doesn't have to put her kid in front of the tv. The essence of community prevention is about building health and supporting decision making in the ways that communities think will work best right where they live.
What you can do: