Some of the most burdensome health conditions our communities and families face can be prevented. Yes, it is easier said than done, but we must take action when more than half of all adults in the U.S. have a chronic health disease and 7 in 10 adult deaths are caused by ones such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
These diseases are common, costly, and often preventable. Through healthy lifestyles and access to quality health care, chronic diseases can affect fewer individuals and families in all communities. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs) are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions due to gaping health disparities between racial groups. Cancer, for example, is the leading cause of death for Asian Americans, and NHPIs have rates of diabetes that are nearly double the rates of white Americans.
At the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), we believe in healthy equity for all, and that healthy families promote economic prosperity, integration, and the ability to engage in and contribute to their communities. With funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, we worked alongside the NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health and 16 community-based organizations in 10 states and Guam on projects to improve nutrition and increase physical activity in AA and NHPI communities. Our grant was a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH).
Through proven interventions such as community gardens, walking trails, farmers’ markets, and making playgrounds more accessible, we collectively reached more than 1.4 million AAs and NHPIs at a cost of just $2.04 per person. Moreover, these efforts were specifically tailored and targeted to AA and NHPI communities who often are not reached by broader community initiatives. Several of our partner organizations leveraged their success to secure funding from the CDC’s REACH program to continue their efforts for another 3 years.
But, there’s always a “but” that follows good news. Like many government-funded programs, funding for REACH must be approved by Congress. Current Senate legislation to fund public health doesn’t include REACH and other evidence-based programs—leaving our communities and families without critical resources. This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a number of budget bills, known as reconciliation, which would completely eliminate the Prevention and Pubic Health Fund. This means cuts to REACH and many other programs targeting chronic diseases and preventable health conditions. Cuts to these programs threaten to turn back on the gains we have made in improving the health of AA and NHPI, African American, Latino, and Native American communities who struggle to access healthy foods and supports to maintain healthy lifestyles.
Our nation can’t afford to cut public health funding, especially to programs that have a proven track record and are cost-effective. If we are going to fight chronic diseases, then we must establish preventive programs to ensure our families have access to heathy options and the ability to be active and live healthy lives. If we cut funding for public health programs like REACH, then we are taking away opportunities for healthy lives for many families. Our families and communities deserve more than this.
We stand in support of #StopTheCuts and encourage all to join us. If all our families are healthy, then we build stronger communities and a stronger economy. Easier said than done, but we have already proven that we can make progress.