April 1, 2013
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Statement on National Public Health Week
As we celebrate the start of National Public Health Week, we recognize public health’s successes and dedicate ourselves to continuing to advance the public’s health.
The nation’s public health affects and connects us all. The Department of Health and Human Services protects public health in many ways; from tobacco control to vaccinations to preventive care and wellness, making health care more accessible to all Americans and ensuring that we have safe water and food.
Three years ago, the Affordable Care Act ushered in a new day for health care, especially for prevention. This year’s theme, “Public Health is ROI; Save Lives, Save Money,” is consistent with the Affordable Care Act’s focus on preventing illness and keeping people healthy.
Americans have stronger, more reliable health care coverage to help them get or stay healthy. Because of the health care law, about 71 million Americans with private insurance now have expanded coverage of preventive services, such as flu shots and recommended cancer screenings, without paying a dollar out of pocket. More than 34 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have used at least one free preventive service. But that’s only the beginning. Thanks to the health care law, starting October 1, 2013, millions of qualified individuals will have access to quality health insurance to begin January 1, 2014, including critical preventive services, through the new Health Insurance Marketplace.
The National Prevention Strategy, called for by the Affordable Care Act, lays out how we can work together to improve health and quality of life by moving the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on prevention and wellness.
The health care law is also investing in public health strategies to improve the nation’s health by promoting wellness, preventing disease, and protecting against public health emergencies. States and communities are using Prevention and Public Health Fund dollars to help control the obesity epidemic, reduce chronic disease risk factors, and increase public health programs’ effectiveness and efficiency.
For example, last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the second phase of its national media campaign, “Tips from Former Smokers,” which last year prompted more than 200,000 additional calls to the 800-QUIT-Now quitline and more than 500,000 visits to a cessation support website when the campaign was aired. As a result, thousands of lives and millions of health care dollars will be saved.
Also, Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years. Co-led by the CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and alongside other federal, state and local agencies, community organizations, and private partners, Million Hearts is empowering people to make healthy choices and improving care in order to address the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
In addition, the Prevention and Public Health Fund supports Community Transformation Grants, which empower communities to use evidence-based interventions to prevent heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and other conditions by reducing tobacco use, preventing obesity, and reducing health disparities.
HHS also works with other government agencies to protect the nation’s health. For example, the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) is a CDC collaborative project with 10 state sites and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodNet tracks and studies infections transmitted through food and provides information to help determine what interventions are needed to keep our nation’s food supply safe.
These initiatives and the health care law’s investments in public health are focused on keeping people healthy, intervening early to address chronic disease risk factors, and demonstrating how public health can show ROI—a return on investment.
Please join me in recognizing the role of our public health leaders in communities around the country who are working tirelessly to help improve the nation’s public health.