HHS Secretary Thompson Uses Office as ‘Bully Pulpit’ to Push Disease Prevention
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson is using his office as a "bully pulpit" to promote the "lifesaving benefits" of proper nutrition and exercise, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Thompson has been known to take cigarettes away from HHS employees whom he catches smoking, the AP/Inquirer reports, and he also is "teaching healthier living by example" -- he has lost nine pounds since January and lowered his cholesterol level by 155 points. Thompson "laments" the fact that obesity, Type II diabetes and tobacco-related illnesses cost the nation $270 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity, a sum larger than Medicare's annual budget, and that 35 people die every hour from diseases linked to inactively or poor nutrition alone. "What ridiculous reasons to die," Thompson said. Such statistics, he added, show "how out of whack our health care system is in America. We wait until people get sick before providing care."
Thompson is looking for "creative approaches" to promote preventive services, the AP/Inquirer reports. He is studying how to use tax credits for "getting fit" and is planning to lobby employers to provide exercise time and facilities to workers. He also is working with insurance companies on "anti-fat ad campaigns" and on a $20 million project to "challenge" communities to cut obesity and diabetes rates. Despite the efforts, public health experts say that HHS needs greater funding to "really prevent lifestyle-caused disease." American Public Health Association Executive Director Dr. Mohammad Akhter said, "Right now, if we spend $1, one cent goes for prevention, 99 cents for providing health care when you're sick," adding, "That needs to change -- you just cannot get something for nothing" (Neergaard, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.