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 training more primary care residents, building laboratory capacity, and reducing tobacco use.
Supporters of the program say that 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 may fare in the current political environment.
CN: The APHA supported the Prevention Fund's creation. Why is this type of investment important?
CN: Can prevention efforts like this really save money?
CN: Do you think the Prevention Fund is likely to survive in the long run?
DR. BENJAMIN is currently serving as a distinguished fellow in public health at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York system. He will return to his role as executive director of the American Public Health Association in 2012. Previously he served as the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The Fund's goal was to replace 'yo-yo,' patchwork funding with a stable, reliable funding stream for the first time.
Source DR. BENJAMIN