Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Prevention and Public Health Fund

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Prevention and Public Health Fund

Article excerpt

One of the controversial elements of the Affordable Care Act is creation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which sets aside about $15 billion to finance public health programs over the next decade. Under the program, the Health and Human Services department awards grants for projects that prevent illness or promote health. For example, since 2010, HHS has awarded more than $42 million to organizations in California for a variety of programs, including reducing tobacco use and building laboratory capacity.

Supporters of the program say it is an important investment in prevention that will ultimately save money by detecting diseases early and better managing costly chronic conditions. Opponents have deemed it a "slush fund" and are seeking to eliminate it. In April, the House-approved legislation that would dismantle the fund; however, the Senate has not taken action on the bill. The Prevention Fund could also be a target for cuts by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which is tasked with cutting $1.5 trillion from the federal budget this fall.

Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), offers his views on why the Prevention Fund is essential to public health and how it might fare in the current political environment.

Clinical Psychiatry News: Why do you think the Prevention Fund has been caught up in politics?

Dr. Benjamin: I think the Prevention Fund has been grossly misunderstood. For years, public health has been the most underinvested part of our health system. We've had "yo-yo" funding with a patchwork of funding streams. The goal of the Prevention Fund was to build on our existing funding sources and, for the first time, create a stable, reliable funding stream, which would allow the system to mature and reach its full potential. People who want to demonize the fund have said things that don't represent its intent. The money is being used to build a sustainable public health system and really begin to transform the health system, which I believe will dramatically improve the health and well-being of the people in our country.

CPN: The APHA supported the creation of the Prevention Fund. Why is this type of investment important?

Dr. Benjamin: I spent most of my early years in emergency medicine, so I've seen first-hand the effects of preventable disease. At APHA, we felt this was the best opportunity to tackle diseases that we should try to reduce from moral, ethical, and humanistic perspectives. …

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