Legislation Includes Provisions to Fight Chronic Disease, Encourage Healthier Communities, Schools and Workplaces, and Improve Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities
Legislation introduced today by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, outlines critical public health and prevention initiatives to fight chronic disease, encourage healthier schools, communities and workplaces, and improve physical activity opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The Healthier Lifestyles and Prevention America (HeLP America) Act includes wellness provisions in a broad range of areas, including expanded access to fresh fruits and vegetables for all low-income elementary schools, tax incentives for businesses that offer comprehensive workplace wellness programs to their employees, improved physical activity and athletic opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and greater oversight with regard to food and tobacco marketing.
“Improving public health starts with prevention. Taking steps to improve access to healthier options, exercise opportunities, food labeling, and tobacco cessation will not only help stave off chronic disease—it will also save consumers and taxpayers money in the long run,” Harkin said. “By making health and wellness a key priority in our schools, workplaces, and communities—and by educating people to make informed choices—the HeLP America Act can open the door for more Americans to live longer and more productive lives free from chronic disease.”
Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are among the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, and the economic impact is staggering. More than seventy-five percent of the $2.5 trillion the United States spends on health care annually is due to chronic disease.
Harkin has championed preventive healthcare initiatives throughout his career, including increased access to screenings for breast cancer and other diseases, the school fruit and vegetable pilot program, and tobacco control. Most recently, as HELP Committee Chairman, Harkin championed the prevention and wellness measures that are included in the Affordable Care Act. Preventive initiatives in doctors’ offices and the community help rein in costs across the full health care spectrum. The Prevention and Public Health title of the health reform law creates incentives to prevent chronic disease, and requires health insurance companies to cover recommended preventive screenings with no copays or deductibles. The bill introduced today builds upon the prevention and wellness measures contained in the health reform law and includes several new sections that further expand public health and prevention efforts, including encouraging healthier food offerings in our National Parks and increasing opportunities for physical activity in school settings.
Harkin’s legislation has been endorsed by the American Heart Association, the YMCA of the USA, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Trust for America’s Health. A full summary of the HeLP America Act of 2013 is below: