Underscoring Public Health


Health care reform. It has become the media catchphrase. Thus far – and understandably so – the main concern has been over how to provide adequate coverage to the 46 million uninsured Americans. But the national health care discussion received some new attention today, and, this time, the focus switched to preventative care.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved The Affordable Health Choices Act today, a bill that highlights public health, or preventative, programs at its core. Preventative care focuses on wellness and the maintenance of good public health. Public health departments, like the one in its planning stage in the Lehigh Valley, are responsible for the general community health, and, in part, work out plans for protection against communicable diseases, as well as educate the local public about good health programs, such as exercise and nutrition. Because public health initiatives promote smarter development patterns, such as walkable communities, they are in line with smart growth practices.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it is important to link up different issues together in the smart growth narrative, and a new Transportation for America blog post examines the connection between transportation and public health, citing some new research that has emerged recently. For instance, the newest figures for the cost of obesity, posted by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, hover close to $40 billion for that state alone. Another study suggests that women who live in areas with much traffic congestion and air pollution are at higher risk for complications during pregnancy. Transportation reform, not to mention better land-use planning, are both closely tied to these findings, as walkable communities and transit options can help with these health issues.

It is important to remember that public health, while part of the broad health care vision, is separate from the health care coverage discussion, and it is great to see some attention shed on preventative care.

Keep following discussions related to public health by visiting our Join Us page and checking off the Health box. And, of course, keep checking this blog for updates.

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About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on July 16, 2009, in Health, Transportation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I am glad to see that public policy is beginning to assert itself in the field of preventive health, because prevention simply is not an attractive option for a profit-driven health industry. The industry needs a good nudge in the right direction, and this may be it.

    Environmental designs and transportation policies are crucial to human health. Research by Barbara Brown, my graduate school mentor, not only found that traditional and New Urban neighborhood designs are associated with healthy weight and sprawl designs with unhealthy weight, but the same is true of people who choose to take public transit (specifically light rail) as opposed to automotive transportation.

    I think, however, that we need to begin looking at not only environmental design as a way of increasing exercise, but we also need to enact policies to counteract the other side of the energy-balance equation. Our food environments are very powerful – and inconspicuous – factors in our eating behaviors. For example, psychological studies have been conducted that show that people consume more food when it is presented in a larger bowl than when it is presented in a smaller bowl. And we have a penchant for drastically underestimating the amount of food that we consume.

    Policies touting Smart Growth should be complimented by policies that better regulate food environments. A more holistic approach is likely to be more effective than a singular one.

  2. At http://www.FaithfulinPrayer.wordpress.com, I’m writing a series of articles outlining what the the actual House bill (h.r.3200) says.
    So far, I’m at Subtitle 2 of Title II of Division A. Tomorrow will be Subtitle 3.
    Join the Journey!

  1. Pingback: Investing in Regional Health Departments « Crossroads

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