Friday, March 13, 2009

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s declaration that health care reform should start with a focus on changing unhealthy behaviors was declared the Best Prevention Idea of the Week, while the Maryland state government’s decision to spend less on anti-tobacco programs is the Worst Prevention Idea of the Week.

The Best/Worst honors are a regular feature of Prevention Matters. Each week, Partnership for Prevention's staff will choose the designees based on nominations of items in the previous week’s news submitted by members, staff and the public at large. To submit a nomination or for more information, contact Damon Thompson at .


Improving the quality and access to health care in Michigan should start with efforts to reform behavior, like a ban on smoking in the workplace and mandatory exercise for school children, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich told a state senate health policy panel this week.

Gingrich, the former Republican congressman who now heads the Center for Health Transformation, said policymakers, the public and the media often make the mistake of viewing health care reform primarily as a financial challenge, rather than a complex mix of individual behavior, cultural influence and uneven quality.

Expanding access to health care and improving citizens’ health won’t happen by changing the financial model, he said.

“If all you do is try to figure out how to finance the current system, you’ll go broke,” Gingrich said. “The current system is stunningly wasteful.”

Gingrich appeared before the state Senate Health Policy Committee as part of a health-care related trip to Michigan.

Much of his testimony focused on the need to find ways to change behavior, especially in the state’s poorest communities. Government can encourage healthier eating and living by providing financial and tax incentives, such as providing a food stamp bonus to recipients who purchase more fruits and vegetables, he said.


The state of Maryland is doling out less money for anti-tobacco programs this year, which may cause county health departments to scale back their smoking-cessation efforts.

Since 2000, Anne Arundel county has been using a grant from the state's cigarette-restitution fund to pay for a variety of free programs, including brochures, smoking-cessation classes and anti-smoking education programs in schools.

Early estimates show funding for these programs could be reduced by nearly 70 percent.

Officials said they wanted to make sure there was as little impact as possible on programs dealing with youth and communities. They don't expect to hear just how much money they'll receive until April.


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