HHS Targets $650 Million to Improve Community Prevention, Wellness Efforts

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , September 21, 2009

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will spend $650 million in economic recovery stimulus money to encourage Americans to adopt more "healthful lifestyle habits." The funds will be used with a community prevention and wellness initiative to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, decrease obesity, and decrease smoking across the country.

As part of the program, $373 million in cooperative agreements will be awarded to communities through a competitive selection process. The cooperative agreements will support evidence based prevention strategies for children and adults and will promote community partnerships through the public health initiative, called Communities Putting Prevention to Work, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will lead.

The goal of the initiative is to "make disease prevention and health promotion top priorities in states and communities across the country," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in announcing the funding.

The focus of the projects should be on changing systems and environments--for example, improving access to healthy foods and providing opportunities for physical activity—and putting into place policies, such as clean indoor air laws, to promote the health of a broad population, she said.

Funded projects are to emphasize high impact, broad reaching policy, environmental, and systems changes in both schools and communities. For example, communities can work to make high fat snack foods and sugar sweetened beverages less available in schools and other community sites. In addition, funded communities will be encouraged to provide quality physical education in schools and enact comprehensive smoking bans.

"With two thirds of Americans overweight or obese and one in five Americans still smoking, this initiative is tackling two of the biggest health crises in the United States head on," said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of the nonprofit group Trust for America's Health.

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