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Health advocates advise lawmakers to focus on prevention

October 13, 2011
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blood pressureRepresentatives from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association (AHA) testified yesterday before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the need for a healthcare system that places a greater emphasis on prevention.

"Collectively, these organizations represent millions of patients, survivors and families affected by four of the nation’s most prevalent chronic diseases: cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke," according to a statement released by the AHA. "Americans at risk of developing these deadly and costly diseases can benefit tremendously from proven community interventions, clinical services, early detection and health screenings. The return on investment for preventing chronic disease can be measured in terms of lives saved as well as reduced health care spending."
 
“While we have made great strides over the past two decades in reducing the rate of death from cancer, we are in danger of falling behind previous generations,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., CEO of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and a member of the federal Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. “Much of the suffering and death from cancer that occurs today, along with the substantial cost we incur of treating advanced disease, could be reduced through evidence-based prevention.” 
 
The coalition said that a unified focus on prevention that includes individual efforts, contributions from government and initiatives by non-profits is the only way the problem can be effectively addressed. Coverage for preventive screenings, the creation of the National Prevention Strategy and initiatives supported by the Prevention and Public Health Fund are key elements of this approach.
 
“Every 17 seconds another American is diagnosed with diabetes. Already, nearly 26 million American children and adults have diabetes, and another 79 million have prediabetes, which puts them at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes,” said John W. Griffin, Jr., Chair of the Board, American Diabetes Association. “Yet, despite these scary statistics, we know that through proven interventions aimed at diabetes prevention, like the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which prevents or delays over half of new cases of diabetes, we can stop the diabetes epidemic from spreading across the country.”
 
“By 2030 we project that two out of five Americans—116 million people, or 40 percent of the population—will have some form of cardiovascular disease,” said Nancy Brown, CEO, AHA. “But we can change the trajectory of these frightening projections if we as a nation are willing to take deliberate and focused actions to prevent or delay the many forms of cardiovascular disease.”
 
The AHA is calling for the use of the Prevention and Public Health Fund to make a dedicated investment in proven chronic disease prevention programs.

Proposed cuts to the fund raised a protest from the American Public Health Association last month, which said cuts could put the nation’s health at risk. 

"Long-term and potentially life-threatening consequences of a compromised public health system will far outweigh the short-term savings. It is through these life-saving measures that we help build a sustainable public health infrastructure and begin to fundamentally transformour nation’s health system. This fund is acritical investment as part of the Affordable Care Act, and APHA is deeply disappointed in today’sproposal to backtrack on this commitment. APHA will continue to work with Congress and the administration not only to protect the $15 billion designated for the fund over 10 years, but to ensure this investment grows in years to come.”
 
About ACS CAN

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.
 
About the American Diabetes Association

The American Diabetes Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. For more information please 1-800-DIABETES or visit www.diabetes.org.
 
About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. To learn more call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit www.heart.org.

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