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POLICY CORNER: House Passes Health Care Reform; Tell Senate to Emphasize Physical Activity

On Saturday night, Nov. 7, the House of Representatives passed its health reform bill, The Affordable Health Care for America Act, by a vote of 220-215. The legislation includes an entire section on prevention and wellness and specifically undertakes a coordinated effort to make comprehensive prevention research, evaluation, and delivery a permanent part of the national landscape.

And, as your Senators debate complex and controversial issues involved in this legislation, please tell them to keep in mind the incontrovertible benefits of physical activity and exercise. Here is a preventive measure with very low cost and high yield: improved health, increased productivity and reduced health care costs. Click here to visit ACSM's Advocacy Center and send your Senators a message.

In addition to providing a mandatory funding stream of $34 billion for a Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund to strengthen core public health activities at the state and local level, the House bill proposes to expand the capacity of two independent, advisory task forces the U.S. Clinical Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (TFCPS) to conduct rigorous, systematic reviews of existing science to recommend the adoption of proven and effective services. (Clinical preventive services are delivered individually by a doctor or other health worker in a standard health setting, while community preventive services are delivered outside this traditional clinical structure and often are implemented across targeted groups.)

While acknowledging that medical screenings and tests for detecting early symptoms of disease are essential and should be included in efforts to reform our health care system, ACSM points out that primary prevention is especially cost-effective and actually saves money when individuals and communities are encouraged to take specific actions on their own, such as improving physical activity levels and nutrition while preventing tobacco use. These primary prevention measures do not involve direct medical care, making them inexpensive to implement while generating a healthy return.

As Congress continues to work on health reform legislation, ACSM will continue to advocate through its members and in concert with partner organizations. Our goal is to ensure that the final legislation includes preventive provisions such as incentives and demonstration/pilot projects that encourage individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles, which can make the greatest impact at the least cost.


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