It’s been over two and a half years since our lawmakers passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Until last month the details of the bill hadn’t been finalized due to the enduring controversy over the individual mandate. I’m not writing this article to debate the constitutionality of the mandate, there are plenty of places on the web you can engage in that banter. But, I do want to examine the measures passed to improve public health, some of which have already begun.
It’s fairly clear that the mere fact of possessing health insurance will not necessarily make you healthier. But, of the over two thousand pages included in the document, only fifty of the pages within the section “Title IV – Prevention of Chronic Disease and Improving Public Health” address the importance of preventative medicine and the steps the President will take. Much of Title IV revolves around the organization and creation of governmental councils aimed at improving the well being of Americans, thus, boosting the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services by over two billion dollars. Below I’ve highlighted some relevant changes discussed within the document:
1. Establishment of the “National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council“ (Sec. 4001)
a. Chaired by the Surgeon General and composed of over 12 top federal agency directors
b. The council is advised by a group of the nation’s top 25 non-federal licensed health professionals with expertise in various areas of wellness.
c. The council in 2010 unveiled a national prevention, health promotion and public health strategy that’s since led to the USDA “MyPlate” overhaul of the previous nutrition pyramid, the First Lady led “Let’s Move” program and numerous other goals and objectives for improving the health of the United States.
d. The council is tasked to report each year to the President and Congress on the progress of federally funded programs.
2. Universal coverage of preventative screening services and immunizations (Sec. 4002-4004)
a. A Presidentially appointed task force will continually review research to determine what screening services are vital and should be covered at no cost or with low deductibles.
b. This section includes appropriations for education and outreach through a national media blitz.
3. Establishment of School-based health centers (Sec. 4101)
a. These centers will provide comprehensive primary health services to prevent and treat a wide array of physical and mental health ailments in children.
4. Oral Healthcare Prevention Activities and Education for Children and Families (Sec. 399LL)
a. The focus of this section is on federally funded oral disease management techniques for children
5. Grants galore for creating healthier communities (Sec. 4201)
a. These grants are released only after adherence to strict requirements governmental oversight
6. Nutrition labeling of standard menu items at chain restaurants (Sec. 4205)
a. Regardless of the type of ownership, if a restaurant has 20 or more locations it will now be required to post the number of calories next to the name of the menu item.
7. Technical assistance and research for employer-based wellness programs (Sec. 399MM)
a. The government will begin providing web portals and other resources to help employers measure the wellness of employees.
In general, I am very pleased with the current and slated changes to preventative healthcare. Also, keep in mind that there are several other sections I omit for both brevity and importance. In the future I’d like to see either state or federal governments begin offering research proven incentives to living a healthy lifestyle.