As we celebrate the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act this week, we also mark a huge turning point in the way we think about health. A year ago this week, our country made a down payment on a transformative notion.
The communities where we live, work, learn and play should thrive. Your family, the kids your children play with at school, the family that lives next door to you, deserve support as they strive to be healthy. Local businesses trying to prosper shouldn't be brought down by skyrocketing health costs and low productivity related to the declining health of their workforce.
That down payment comes in the form of a historic federal commitment to prevention and wellness. Through prevention funding, for the first time ever, our country is shifting our focus to health for all, rather than health care for some. Instead of simply focusing on doing what we do in the doctor's office better and more efficiently, we are also thinking about keeping people out of the doctor's office, period. That smart investment one year ago is already reaping big rewards.
Prevention is saving money. 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 percent 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. A 5 percent reduction -- just in diabetes and high blood pressure rates -- would save our country as much as 24.7 billion dollars a year. The American people know it, and they are rolling up their sleeves and doing just what America does best: finding innovative solutions. The federal government has dedicated the resources; and the ideas and solutions in each neighborhood are unique, because each of our communities knows what works best for them.
Prevention believes that parents want their kids to eat healthily; and prevention also makes sure every child can access fresh, affordable food right where they live and go to school. In Philadelphia, nearly 500 corner stores have been recruited into the Healthy Corner Store Initiative; some local businesses have received resources for equipment upgrades, shelving and refrigeration to sell produce, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats.
Prevention is helping small businesses. In Bartholomew County, Indiana, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce has worked with other local groups to create Reach Healthy Business, a workplace recognition program designed to support companies who are committed to creating a workplace that supports employee health. Chamber of Commerce president Jack Hess came on board to address what he thought were the two single biggest costs to small businesses: health insurance costs and the loss in productivity based on the treatment of health-related disease, such as employee absenteeism. Hess said, "A healthy community is one in which companies want to locate, businesses want to grow and expand, and the best workforce in the world wants to live."
Prevention is local, and involves all of us. La Crosse County Wisconsin's Farm2School program is helping Wisconsin kids eat Wisconsin food. Over 5,000 students are eating and learning how to cook locally-grown foods including cabbage, beets, wild rice, potatoes and winter squash, grown by local Wisconsin farmers, and prepared locally instead of being shipped in from California, Florida or even Chile. Local food processing facility Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen pre-processes the food to reduce labor costs in the school kitchens, and had to add a third shift to keep up with the new demand.
America could be -- should be -- a nation committed to the health of its people, not solely to the treatment and management of its sick. We want children and parents to take for granted that the places they live, work, play, and learn are going to support them in healthy eating, physical activity and living smoke-free -- not make it harder.
Prevention is making that possible today.
Follow Larry Cohen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/preventioninst