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Prevention Must Be Pillar of Health Reform

April 06, 2009

"Seventy-five cents of every health care dollar is spent battling chronic disease, and the major factors causing them are smoking, poor diet and inactivity. But California's fight against tobacco demonstrated that changing the environment to emphasize well-executed prevention and wellness strategies can turn unhealthy trends around," Carmen Rita Nevarez, MD, said in comments following the Western Regional White House Forum on Health Care Reform today.

"Prevention and wellness must be a pillar in any effort to reform the health system," said Nevarez, president-elect of the American Public Health Association, vice president for external relations & preventive medicine advisor of the Public Health Institute in Oakland and an invited expert who spoke during the forum. "We need to change the environment so the healthy choice becomes the easy choice."

Held at The California Endowment (TCE) in Los Angeles, the forum was the last in five regional town hall-like meetings convened by the Obama Administration across the nation in the last month. The western forum was hosted by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes. Other smaller forums in San Diego, Clovis and Oakland were linked Monday by satellite to TCE site.

President Obama intended the forums as a bipartisan means to foster an open dialogue among his Administration, elected officials, health care stakeholders and Americans across each region about how the health care system should be overhauled. He has said these "conversations" will advise the Administration and Congress on strategies for lowering the cost of health care, expanding coverage and improving health care quality.

Nevarez also noted the intertwining of the economic crisis and people's health. "Research is showing that stress without hope is especially harmful to health," she said. "If the recovery is successful and people return to work in meaningful jobs, we will see an improvement in our nation's health status."