03/21/2011 12:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Power of Prevention

I want to commemorate the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a healthier American people.

One year ago, we took the first step toward a true public health system when the federal government committed to helping people take personal responsibility for their own health by making healthy choices easier choices.

Included in the ACA -- which eliminates co-pays for proven, effective preventive services -- is the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a $16.5 billion investment over the next 10 years that goes to communities around the country to help them keep Americans healthier and more productive.

One hallmark program of the Prevention Fund is the Community Transformation Grants (CTG), which provide communities with the resources needed to work together at the local level to create health initiatives tailored to their specific needs. This can involve small business owners, faith leaders, youth leaders, employers, community groups, parents, law enforcement officials, schools, and health care providers. With a CTG Grant, a community can:

  • Improve nutrition and physical education programs in schools;
  • Launch initiatives to reduce tobacco use, especially among children and adolescents;
  • Improve access to healthful, affordable foods through farmers' markets and by making fresh fruits and vegetables available in local stores; and
  • Much more.

In addition, the ACA includes the creation of the National Prevention Strategy, which will help ensure that the federal government engages in a health in all policies approach with each agency contributing to the quality of our nation's health. Specifically, the Strategy will:

  • Set specific goals and objectives for improving the health of the United States through federally supported prevention, health promotion, and public health programs;
  • Establish specific and measurable actions and timelines to carry out the strategy, and determine accountability for meeting those timelines, within and across Federal departments and agencies; and
  • Make recommendations to improve Federal efforts relating to prevention, health promotion, public health, and integrative health-care practices to ensure that Federal efforts are consistent with available standards and evidence.

By supporting preventive measures, we help curb costs down the road by sparing millions of Americans from developing serious, preventable diseases and keeping more people working, happy and productive. The investment is urgent because today's children are in danger of becoming the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.

Preventing disease and injury is the most effective, common-sense way to improve health in the United States. The ACA, National Prevention Strategy, and Prevention Fund give us a chance to shift the paradigm from a sick care system that focuses on treating disease after it happens to a health care system, where we keep people healthy in the first place.

Let's make sure our country is healthier when it comes time for the cotton, leather, linen/silk, wood, iron, wool/copper, bronze and, yes, gold anniversaries of the law.

For background on the Prevention Fund, in fiscal year 2011, the funds will be dedicated to expanding on four critical priorities:

  • Community Prevention (298 million)
  • Community and State Prevention (222 million)
  • Tobacco Prevention (60 million)
  • Obesity Prevention and Fitness (16 million)
  • Clinical Prevention (182 million)
  • Access to Critical Wellness and Preventive Health Services (112 million)
  • Behavioral Health Screening and Integration with Primary Health (70 million)
  • Public Health Infrastructure and Training (137 million)
  • Public Health Capacity (52 million)
  • Public Health Workforce (45 million)
  • Public Health Infrastructure (40 million)
  • Research and Tracking (133 million)
  • Health Care Surveillance and Planning (84 million)
  • Prevention Research (49 million)

The FY 2011 Prevention Fund will provide resources that will help communities in every state:

  • Reduce tobacco use;
  • Help kids eat healthier meals and snacks and get more physical activity in school;
  • Expand opportunities for kids and families to be more active;
  • Improve nutrition by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables and farmers markets; and
  • Improve prevention services in low-income and underserved communities.

The Fund will also improve state and local health departments' ability to:

  • Provide flu and other immunizations;
  • Protect food, air, and water;
  • Fight infectious diseases;
  • Respond to natural disasters like floods and hurricanes; and
  • Prepare for terror attacks.