By Bob Stolarick and Cindy Zeldin
The Affordable Care Act includes a major new investment in prevention and public health: The Prevention and Public Health Fund is designated for use in communities across the country to target key public health issues such as tobacco cessation and efforts to reduce obesity by encouraging better nutrition and increased physical activity. The funding will also be used to strengthen state and local public health infrastructure, support data collection and analysis for community-based and clinical-based prevention activities and to expand and improve training for the public health workforce. Here in Georgia, these funds will be critical to strengthen our public health system.
The fund, however, is at risk of being gutted through an amendment proposed by U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) on which the U.S. Senate will vote on September 14th. The Johanns amendment would use the Prevention and Public Health Fund as an offset to repeal a tax compliance provision (also created under the Affordable Care Act) through the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act. The shortfall that this creates would be paid for by eliminating the $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund. If this amendment passes, there will be no funding to support these crucial public health initiatives. An alternative amendment proposed by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) would also address the concerns raised by small businesses on the tax compliance provision but would preserve the Prevention and Public Health Fund. More information is available here. Please contact Georgia Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss and ask them to support the preservation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
Bob Stolarick is the Executive Director of the Georgia Public Health Association.