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Tuesday
Jan252011

IHRSA Offers Support, Expertise to Members of Congress

President Barack Obama will make his State of the Union Address tonight.In anticipation of Barack Obama's State of the Union Address, IHRSA offers their support, expertise and research data to members of Congress. We hope to underscore the importance of preventative measures of health care, like exercise and nutrition.

Here's the letter in its entirety:

We are writing to urge you and your fellow Members of the 112th Congress to uphold effective wellness promotion and disease management measures as part of any 2011 health care policy debate. 

Effective disease prevention is critical to the public health and future economic competitiveness of our country. It saves lives, encourages increased individual responsibility, and lowers federal health care expenditures.

We want to emphasize especially the oft-neglected role of primary prevention – or the task of keeping people healthy in the first place. While secondary prevention (medical diagnostic tests for the early detection of disease) is also essential, measures to prevent the onset or spread of chronic disease in the first place have even greater potential to improve the health of our citizenry and reduce costs.

Specifically, we are focused on four controllable health risk behaviors that are responsible, to a very large extent, for the deadly and debilitating toll that chronic diseases have taken on our country: (1) the lack of physical activity, (2) poor nutrition, (3) tobacco use, and (4) excessive alcohol consumption.

The facts tell a stark story. Since the late 1980s, roughly two-thirds of the increase in health care spending in the United States has been due to the increased prevalence of treated chronic disease. Today, about half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic disease. And what is the financial cost? Chronic diseases account for roughly 75% of the $2 trillion spent on medical care in our country each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 80% of heart disease and stroke, 80% of type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer could be prevented if Americans stopped smoking, exercised more, and started eating more healthfully. A full $5.6 billion in heart disease costs could be saved if 10 percent of adults began a regular walking program. And according to a 2008 report by the Trust for America’s Health, an investment of $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use, could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), businesses that operate well-organized wellness programs that enjoy a high rate of active participation can generate about $3 in returns for every dollar spent. What’s more, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asserts that by incorporating wellness, prevention, and chronic disease management into their traditional health plans, employers see fewer sick days, greater worker productivity, and lower health insurance costs. The Chamber also cites one study showing that workplace health programs present on average a 28% reduction in sick leave, a 26% reduction in health care costs, and a 30% reduction in worker's compensation and disability claims costs.

Effective health care legislation that removes barriers to healthy lifestyle choices and supports the business, medical, and local public health communities in their efforts to counsel and engage individuals in health-promoting practices is the most cost-effective solution for stemming the tide of obesity and chronic disease that consume the bulk of our nation’s health care spending.

We cannot overemphasize how important this is to our country. Decades of collective work and research in the public health field provide the foundation for our abiding belief that until we structure a health care system around the practice of effective disease prevention—true prevention—America’s health care problems will not be solved. And costs will continue to rise, burdening future generations.

We urge you to make primary disease prevention a major and central tenet of any health care debate and legislation. 

We are ready to work with you to provide research, expertise, testimony, and whatever help we can to improve America’s health and build a more effective health care system that fortifies the future strength of our country.  We thank you for considering this urgent request.

Several other organizations co-authored the letter, including the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the Exercise is Medicine Global Initiative and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). The letter is addressed to Speaker of the House John Boehnor, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

You can download the full letter as a PDF.

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