Stimulus Money Supports Prevention Programs: December 2009
By Amy Winterfeld
Federal economic stimulus money helped jump start beleaguered state budgets to address chronic disease prevention in a year Vermont Representative Christopher Bray describes as the “bring your own money” session.
During the 2009 legislative session, Bray and Representative Jason Lorber used stimulus money and private funds to start a farm-to-plate program in Vermont. Its goal is to help farmers sell their food to Vermont consumers.
Making local produce more readily available will likely lead not only to economic benefits but also to healthier eating choices that will help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
“We came at rebuilding our food system through the lens of economic development in a year where that was important to everyone,” Bray says. “It energized the discussion. People who wouldn’t have been interested in food and agriculture, when we talked about it as economic development, became much more interested.”
Bray foresees even greater health benefits. “Long term, this economic development will be overshadowed by what we save in health. One day the value of health care savings related to better diets will equal or exceed the value of farm receipts for this food.”
Stimulus funds also recently came online for a nationwide effort to prevent chronic disease and promote wellness. Through a stimulus program administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, $650 million is available for “evidence-based clinical and community-based prevention and wellness strategies.”
Communities were invited to apply by Dec. 1 for $373 million in grants to increase physical activity levels; improve nutrition; decrease obesity; and reduce smoking rates, teen smoking and second-hand smoke exposure.
An additional $120 million in grants is available to states and territories that apply to help people quit smoking, prevent smoking, and encourage exercise and better eating. Includedin the $120 million is $30 million in competitive state awards for special policy initiatives to improve a community’s health. Remaining funds were reserved for community support, evaluation, a national media campaign and state chronic disease self-management programs.
The funding is “an important step toward a [healthier] America,” said Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary. “We know that many chronic diseases are preventable, and the resources now available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will assist states and territories … [with] programs that will save lives and lower health care costs.”