Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Can a person's health be improved outside of the doctor's office or hospital? Some Republican lawmakers apparently think not.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., a psychologist and co-chair of both the Mental Health Caucus and the GOP Doctors Caucus, dismisses proposals to fund infrastructure projects through community prevention measures in the health reform bills being crafted by Congress.

The Chicago Tribune says he "stresses the importance of preventive measures ... (b)ut Murphy thinks infrastructure projects like bike trails would probably best belong in a transportation bill. The health care bill itself, he believes, must address how care can be delivered more effectively and efficiently by doctors and hospitals."

In making such statements, Murphy apparently overlooks the fact that the US Task Force on Community Preventive Services - an independent panel of experts sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - has identified more than 60 policies and programs that are proven to address the nation's most serious preventable health problems, like obesity and smoking. These policies, which are implemented outside of a doctor's office or hospital, help create environments that facilitate good nutrition choices and create safe places and opportunities in which people can engage in physical activity.

A draft Senate bill would provide up to $10 billion annually for a prevention and public health investment fund -- a portion of which could be used for projects such as bike paths, sidewalks, farmers markets and other community interventions meant to curb chronic and costly conditions like obesity.

So let's get this straight - chronic diseases are underlying drivers of our current health care expenditures; many of these chronic disesases can be largely prevented through good nutrition and increased physical activity; good nutrition and increased physical activity can be increased through non-clinical programs; but the health reform bill should only concentrate on things that happen in doctor's offices and hospitals? Hopefully, Rep. Murphy will re-think this stance.


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