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Why should I care?
The then Institute of Medicine reported in 2012 that "the current generation of children and young adults in the United States could become the first generation to experience shorter life spans and fewer healthy years of life than those of their parents."1 In fact, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2015, American life expectancy dropped for the first time in more than two decades.2
We can and must do better. To live up to our nation's health potential, there are three important system changes we must address.
More Americans need health insurance. The Affordable Care Act has brought health insurance to an additional 20 million Americans.3 That's amazing progress. However, as of 2015, more than 28 million people remain uninsured.4
The U.S. must invest more in health and prevention. Seventy-five percent of our health care costs are related to preventable conditions like obesity, tobacco use and unsafe sex practices.5 Yet less than 3 percent of our health care spending is focused on prevention.6 Prevention investments are more than a smart use of public dollars — they can also save lives. Every 10 percent increase in funding for community-based health programs is estimated to reduce deaths due to preventable causes by up to 7 percent.7
Health disparities exist among numerous populations. Health inequities related to income and access to coverage exist across demographic lines, but population-based disparities are impossible to deny as well. For example, as reported by Families USA, African American women are more than twice as likely to die during pregnancy compared to white women,8 and Hispanics are 65 percent more likely to have diabetes than whites.9
What can I do?
With one vote, Congress could turn back the progress we have made to insure millions of Americans and refocus on prevention and health. To keep the health of America moving in the right direction, you can take action right now to:
- Tell Congress to support and continue to implement the Affordable Care Act and urge your state lawmakers to either sustain or authorize Medicaid expansion for low-income adults. If the Affordable Care Act helped you or your family access needed care and preventive services, share your story with lawmakers or consider sending a letter-to-the-editor to your local newspaper. Personal stories from real people are powerful advocacy tools.
- Tell Congress to fully fund the Prevention and Public Health Fund so we can continue changing our health system from one that focuses on treating the sick to one that focuses on keeping people healthy.
- Visit APHA's health reform page to stay abreast of challenges that threaten to undo much of the progress embodied in the Affordable Care Act .
1 APHA: The Prevention and Public Health Fund Issue Brief, June 2012
2 National Center for Health Statistics
3 U.S Department of Health and Human Services
4 Kaiser Family Foundation
5 APHA: Prevention and Public Health Fund
6 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. National Health Expenditure Data
7 Health Affairs, Evidence Links Increase in Public Health Spending to Declines in Preventable Deaths, August 2011
8 Families USA. African American Health Disparities Compared to Non-Hispanic Whites
9 Families USA. Latino Health Disparities Compared to Non-Hispanic Whites