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Welcome Mr. President, Now Here’s How to Improve U.S. Health

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Washington, D.C., – As the 111th Congress begins its first term and the Obama administration prepares to assume power, the American Public Health Association (APHA) urges our elected leaders to recognize the importance of public health as the foundation for a strong national health system able to address the many health challenges facing our nation.

To this end, APHA calls on the president and Congress to:

Increase access to health care. APHA urges the administration to work to ensure that each individual has access to quality and affordable health care. As an important first step, APHA calls on Congress and the administration to act quickly to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Once this is achieved, the Association calls on our leaders to promptly begin working on legislation that will provide comprehensive coverage for the millions of Americans who lack health insurance.

Ensure that health reform bill strengthens the nation’s health system. While expanding access to health care services is a top priority for APHA, providing health insurance to all Americans will not guarantee a healthier nation. To truly achieve this goal, we must invest in strengthening the nation’s public health system by supporting community-based programs and interventions, expanding our primary care and public health work force and working to eliminate racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and geographical health inequities. In order to ensure a healthier America, APHA urges our leaders to invest in a long-term and comprehensive approach to prevention both in the clinical setting and at the community level.

Increase funding for vital public health agencies and programs. APHA calls on our leaders to provide a dramatic increase in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and other public health service agencies. These increases need to be started immediately and sustained over time. Past budget cuts, coupled with new challenges and responsibilities, have caused these critically important agencies to do more with less and to struggle to provide basic public health services, like state-based chronic disease prevention programs, as well as to effectively respond to public health emergencies and natural or man-made disasters.

Address the public health implications of transportation policy. Our communities would benefit from a transportation system that enables all residents to access affordable and secure housing, nutritious food, clean air and water, mass transportation, safe sidewalks, streets and playgrounds, health services and opportunities for social networking. The federal transportation law, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), a nearly $300 billion federal investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure, is due to be reauthorized in 2009. Its reauthorization presents an opportunity to promote health as a critical consideration in transportation policies, to enforce and expand on existing provisions that promote health, equity and safety, and to reform the U.S. transportation system to meet today’s demands. health emergencies and natural or man-made disasters.

Give FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. For decades, the tobacco companies have marketed their deadly products to our children, deceived consumers about the harm their products cause and failed to take any meaningful action to make their products less harmful or less addictive. Legislation introduced in the 110th Congress, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives, would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to effectively regulate the manufacturing, marketing, labeling, distribution and sale of tobacco products. APHA urges our leaders to ensure that passage of this critical public health legislation is a top priority.

Address the public health impacts of climate change. Climate change is a public health issue. From changes in vector borne diseases to impacts on the drinking water supply to extreme weather events, we are already seeing the effects of climate change on the health of people across the globe. We urge the administration to work with Congress to ensure that strong provisions to address the public health consequences of climate change are included in any climate change legislation considered next year. We also request support for new funding for CDC and the National Institutes of Health to help state and local health agencies and the public prepare for and adapt to the health consequences of global climate change.

“Each of these recommendations is an essential component of a holistic strategy aimed at improving health in our nation,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP, executive director of APHA. “By making a national commitment to protecting and promoting health through an investment in a strong public health infrastructure, we have the potential to become the healthiest nation in one generation.”

To read more about the APHA and its "Building the Foundation for a Healthy America, click here.


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