Medical Records

Medication spills out of a prescription bottle in a student apartment on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in Athens, Ga. (Photo/Brayden Robinson, @bray_crobinson)

Despite tremendous improvements in the 20th century, the U.S. is still far from being the healthiest nation. According to a recent Commonwealth Fund report, we spend far more on health care than any other high-income country, but our lives are shorter and less healthy.

We must treat those who are sick and injured. However, to become a healthier nation, we must also invest in prevention and wellness to keep people from becoming sick in the first place. The Prevention and Public Health Fund—a key part of the Affordable Care Act—is a unique program doing just that.

The fund, our nation’s largest single investment in prevention, has provided more than six billion dollars since 2010 to support a variety of public health activities in every state. This includes initiatives that detect and respond to infectious disease threats, prevent lead poisoning, fight obesity and curb tobacco use.

For instance, initiatives financed through the fund include the Prevention’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign, which has encouraged about 104,000 Americans to quit smoking for good and prevented over 17,000 premature deaths caused by tobacco use.

The PPHF also supports the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, which has helped states reach a number of healthy milestones. This grant has reduced drug abuse in Arkansas, prevented long-term disability from stroke in Georgia, stopped a foodborne outbreak from spreading in Missouri and reduced teen drinking in Wisconsin.

Georgia alone has received more than $70 million dollars through the PHHF since 2010. The fund has provided critical resources for prevention programs to combat the leading causes of death and disability. In Georgia, it has funded Community Transformation Grants, breast and cervical cancer screenings, suicide prevention measures and much more. These programs have benefited many, including the uninsured, financially underserved and minority populations.

The fund is already having a profound impact on the physical and economic health of communities across the country. It supports programs that improve American diets, increase physical activity and reduce tobacco use. The fund is helping to create healthier communities, schools, workplaces and homes by making healthy living easier.

All of this progress, however, is at risk. Congress is vowing to repeal the ACA and with it, the PPHF. Repealing the PPHF without any substitution would result in a major loss of funding for core public health programs.

The PPHF makes up more than 12 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual budget. It is integral to helping states keep communities healthy and safe. Eliminating the fund would make it extremely difficult for our local health departments to prevent disease and injuries, which would only contribute to higher health care costs.

The message to Sen. John Isakson, Sen. David Perdue and Rep. Jody Hice is clear: Maintain the funding made possible by the PPHF so we can make the US the healthiest nation. Call your senators and tell them we must invest in prevention and well-being to restrain the growth of health care costs as Congress originally intended.