For Immediate Release
June 12, 2009

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

Report Finds Americans Support Prevention
as a Health Care Reform Priority

Americans rank prevention as the most important health care reform priority, according to a new public opinion poll released earlier this week by the non-partisan Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The results suggest that public backing for more investment in public health would be strong in Kansas.

The poll showed that Americans overwhelmingly support increased funding for prevention programs to reduce disease and keep people healthy, with 70 percent of respondents ranking investment in prevention between an eight and 10 on a 10-point scale.

In the poll a zero meant something was not at all an important health care priority, while a 10 meant it was very important. Forty-six percent rated prevention as a 10 out of 10.

Broad support was given to community-based programs that provide people with information and resources that help them make healthier choices, such as influencing increased physical activity, improving nutrition, preventing initiation of tobacco use and helping people quit smoking.

In Kansas, tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death, linked to over 3,800 Kansas deaths per year.  Despite progress over the past decades, more than 3,300 Kansas children become regular daily smokers each year.

Deaths from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke are followed closely by the 3,700 deaths attributed to physical inactivity and poor nutrition.

“Obesity among Kansas adults now exceeds 27 percent and the percent of overweight Kansans has doubled in children ages 6 to11 years and tripled in adolescents ages 12 to 19 years since 1980,” said Jason Eberhart-Phillips, MD, State Health Officer and Director of Health for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).

Tobacco use and obesity currently cost Kansans $900 million and $657 million per year, respectively.  An investment of $10 per Kansan per year in proven community-based programs that increase physical activity, improve nutrition and prevent use of tobacco in Kansas could save nearly $183 million annually.

These savings would include $41 million in Medicare expenditures, $6 million in Medicaid costs and more than $98 million paid by private payers.

“The key to success in improving the health of Kansans is to increase physical activity, achieve healthy eating practices and eliminate the use of and exposure to tobacco products,” Dr. Eberhart-Phillips asserted.

Community-based programs to increase physical activity, promote healthy eating habits and prevent smoking and other tobacco use provide the best defense for averting future medical costs, he said. 

Dr. Eberhart-Phillips added, “When communities get together and take action, the payoffs in terms of health can be huge. I mean doing things like providing well-lighted and safe walking or biking trails, supporting farmers markets and other initiatives to increase access to fresh and affordable foods, opening school facilities to the public for physical activity, helping young mothers to make good nutrition choices, and implementing proven services and policies to reduce smoking. When these kinds of things happen, everybody wins.” 

To view the findings of the report go to: http://healthyamericans.org/.