Seventy-five percent of our health-care costs are spent on chronic diseases, many of which are preventable. In South Carolina alone, an estimated $1.2 billion was spent treating obesity in 2009; this number is expected to increase to $5.3 billion in 2018.
But we could reduce that by $3 billion — $858 per adult — if we were to halt the growth of obesity. And this is exactly what the Prevention and Public Health Fund aims to do.
The fund, part of the Affordable Care Act, supports public-health activities that respond to infectious disease threats, prevent lead poisoning, fight obesity and curb tobacco use.
In South Carolina, we have received more than $54 million through the Prevention Fund, and it has been put to good use. Tobacco-Free Living has established smoke-free environments in workplaces, churches and colleges. The Active Living and Healthy Eating Program, which I had the opportunity to work with, increased physical activity by supporting regular walking and biking. The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health at the Medical University of South Carolina is addressing the high rate of type 2 diabetes among blacks and developing community-based, culturally tailored interventions to eliminate health disparities.
All of this progress, however, is at risk. Congress is vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and with it the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The fund makes up more than 12 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual budget and is integral to helping states keep communities healthy and safe. Eliminating the fund would make it extremely difficult for our local health departments to prevent disease and injuries.
The message to our members of Congress is clear: Maintain the funding made possible by the Prevention and Public Health Fund, so we can make South Carolina a healthy state by investing in well-being. This will restrain the growth of health-care costs, as Congress intended.