Author Archives: Jeffrey Levi

Idea Gallery: A Decade After 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks, Public Health Preparedness Remains Critical

Sep 1, 2011, 2:15 PM, Posted by Jeffrey Levi, NewPublicHealth

Idea Gallery is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth in which guest authors provide their perspective on issues affecting public health. Today, Jeffrey Levi, Executive Director of Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), writes about public health preparedness and a report issued by TFAH and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Remembering 9/11 and Anthrax: Public Health’s Vital Role in National Defense.

Ten years ago, the September 11th and anthrax tragedies clearly demonstrated that the public health system was not prepared for the range of modern health threats we face. Since then, significant investments have resulted in the country being much better prepared to respond to public health emergencies ranging from threats of bioterrorism to major infectious disease outbreaks like a pandemic flu or natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods.

However, the United States often takes a band-aid approach to public health preparedness. As new emergencies and concerns emerge and attention shifts, it often means resources are diverted from one pressing priority to another, leaving other ongoing areas unaddressed. The unprecedented federal investment in public health preparedness after the September 11th and anthrax attacks was not at a sufficient level to backfill long-standing gaps in infrastructure or update technologies to meet state-of-the-art standards. Currently, there is an additional new threat to preparedness – the current economic climate and budget cuts at the federal, state and local level mean that progress made over the past decade could be lost.

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Idea Gallery: Ensuring "Health in all Policies"

May 5, 2011, 8:29 PM, Posted by Jeffrey Levi

“Health in all policies” has become a sort of shorthand for the public health community. Well, sometimes, longhand is better. That is especially true in the an issue of Health Affairs, which focuses on the connection between environment and health.

The incredibly thorough and important studies included in the publication demonstrate how health can be affected by things ranging from transportation law to education policy.

One of the most fascinating parts of the issue is Protecting Health And Pocketbooks: Why Behavioral And Environmental Interventions Are Needed To Improve Health At Lower Cost, by Bobby Milstein at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues. According to their analysis, environmental health policy plays a critical role in improving the cost-effectiveness of the U.S. health care system. The authors argue that, to improve the health of Americans for generations to come, we need to “invest in prevention initiatives that extend beyond the doctor’s office.”

Luckily enough, the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), gives us the opportunity to do just that by fighting obesity, reducing smoking and improving health where we live, learn, work and play. In short, it will make the healthy choices easier choices and, thereby, prevent suffering and save lives and money.

For example, in prevention programs supported by Community Transformation Grants from the Prevention Fund, communities will be given the support to create healthier environments – whether by promoting clean air, or assuring access to physical activity, or healthier food choices. We will have more community support and programs available to help make healthy choices easier choices for more Americans.

The Prevention fund is an important step toward transforming our sick care system into a health care system by ensuring all policies, focus on how they impact the public’s health.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.