Health Reform Rapid Response: the conversation on prevention
Last Friday, prevention champions in the House came out in force to speak out against the elimination of the Prevention and Public Health Fund to offset an extension of current federal student loan interest rates. Though the President will unequivocally veto the measure, you may have noticed that much of the debate was on women's health—and based solely on last week’s media coverage: preventive health care services.
While the Fund provides for some critical investment in preventive health care services, its promise of bending the cost curve relies heavily on its investments in community prevention—preventing illness and injury in the first place for entire communities. Yet much of the news coverage referred to a "preventive health fund"—narrowing the conversation and debate to cancer screenings and mammograms. Preventive health care services are unquestioningly important to our health system, and at the same time, the Fund provides for so much more—and it is up to us to make sure that reporters understand the full scope and impact of the Fund's programs.
This week, we've selected stories that demonstrate how best to broaden the media frame from preventive services to community prevention. We hope you will take the opportunity to reach out to reporters to educate them about what community prevention looks like in action and the successes your community has accomplished.
What Success Looks Like
- Over at ThinkProgress, "A Primary Care Doctor Explains Why Attacking Prevention Is Not Fiscally Sound," Dr. Christopher Lillis of Doctors for America resoundingly expands the frame to community prevention, makes a strong case for more investments in prevention and public health—all while confronting "slush fund" critiques head on: "Engaging in preventive care in my primary care practice allows for the early detection of disease, which eases the treatment of so many illnesses. But we are not just talking about funding prevention at the individual level. We need to shift the focus of our health care system from one that only treats disease, to a more sensible system that prevents disease and encourages wellness…My prescription: invest more in public health and preventive health–it will lead to a healthier country that can be more productive and significantly reduce our exploding health care costs. This is not a slush fund. This is investing in America’s health and wellness."
- In the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Outrage at the latest cuts to public health funding" comments on what the public health community's communications strategy must be in the face of constant funding threats: "An essential part of such a campaign would be to convince the public that broad prevention and individual treatment go hand in hand—which, of course, they do. As long as our health care culture continues to consider them dichotomous, instead of complementary parts of an organic health care whole, you can bet that we'll prioritize treatment every time. Wouldn't you?"
Tips to Guide your Conversation
Prevention Institute has developed an entire range of communications tools and resources to help you frame your community prevention successes. Here are some of the most effective talking points for reminding the media that the Prevention Fund is also about community prevention and that community prevention and clinical preventive services go hand-in-hand:
- Yes, clinical preventive services are undeniably important to our health system. But community prevention is more than individual health screenings and blood tests. Community prevention goes one step further by preventing illnesses and injuries for entire communities in the first place.
- Community prevention is about ensuring every neighborhood fosters health, not disease—and it goes hand-in-hand with individual clinical preventive services.
- We can make our health care system healthier with prevention. Community prevention provides a landmark opportunity to create a system that truly promotes health. The US spends more per capita on health care expenditures than many other developing countries yet consistently lags in health outcomes. Prevention promotes health care, not sick care.
- Healthy people live in healthy, safe and equitable communities. Almost nothing affects our health as profoundly as the places we live. People thrive when they have jobs and live in communities with safe affordable housing. They thrive when they have easy access to parks, playgrounds, and grocery stores selling nutritious food. Healthy communities provide the foundation and context for healthy behaviors and outcomes. Community prevention makes that possible.
- The public wants prevention. Prevention was one of the earliest implemented parts of health reform because there is a groundswell of public support for prevention. 73% of Americans support investing in prevention.
What you can do