Letter from Six of the Nation's Top Health Foundations Making a Joint Call for Prevention Measures as Central to Health Care Reform

In a letter released today, leaders from The California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, The Kresge Foundation, Nemours, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation write that prevention measures, such as early health screenings and improved access to healthy food and physical activity, will save both lives and money. Good health, they argue, doesn’t start at the doctor’s office—it starts where we live, work, learn and play.

Beginning in 2006, the six foundations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which serves as a technical advisor, partnered to form the Healthy Eating Active Living Convergence Partnership—a collaboration of funders committed to helping healthy people live in healthy places.

The letter’s authors point to several proven examples of community-level prevention measures that have improved health, saved money and cultivated local leadership.

The letter highlights:

  • a small group of local mothers in Bakersfield, Calif., many of them Spanish-speaking farm workers, who formed a walking group to improve their physical fitness and build a sense of community. With the help of police, parks officials and the local Chamber of Commerce, the group cleaned up a long-neglected park and has reported meaningful improvements to their health.
  • the Shape Up Somerville campaign, in Somerville, Mass., which has helped bring healthier school food, safer routes to school, farmers’ markets, community gardens and healthier restaurant options to the city. Weight gain among first- through third-graders has already slowed.
  • the statewide Make Delaware’s Kids the Healthiest in the Nation campaign that battled childhood obesity by helping young children develop healthy eating and active living habits. For every $1 invested in the program, Delaware saw a $4 savings in health-care costs.

“Over time,” the foundation leaders write, “a focus on community prevention will improve health, save money, reduce demands on our health system and, most important, lead to a nation of healthier people and healthier places to live.”