Amid all the rancor leading up to passage of the new health care law, Congress with little fanfare approved a set of wide-ranging public initiatives to prevent disease and encourage healthy behavior.The initiatives provide a big dose of prevention in an effort to counter the powerful forces that encourage people to engage in sedentary lifestyles, to smoke and to eat fatty, high-calorie foods. The emphasis on disease prevention comes nine months after President Obama signed a law that gave sweeping authority to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products....The proposals largely escaped public notice as lawmakers fought over abortion, taxes and a government-run “public option.”....Health insurance companies will soon have to cover all recommended screenings, preventive care and vaccines, without charging co-payments or deductibles. Medicare beneficiaries will get free annual physicals. Medicaid will cover drugs and counseling to help pregnant women stop smoking. And a new federal trust fund will pay for more bicycle paths, playgrounds, sidewalks and hiking trails. Those are some of the provisions Congress tucked into the legislation in an effort to reduce the huge toll of preventable diseases — regardless of whether the initiatives also save money for the government, as some lawmakers expect.
I got lost in all of the details about healthcare reform and was not aware that a portion of this new legislation focused on preventive medicine. I am certainly encouraged by this news. I am particularly enthusiastic about funds for the development of bicycle paths, playgrounds, sidewalks, and hiking trails. Not only do they contribute to health, but they also improve the ambiance of our communities. One concern at this point, however, is that these amenities will be built in the more affluent neighborhoods of our more progressive cities, many of which already have their fair share of parks. I know it's a challenging issue, but is there some way that we need to develop walking trails and parks in our inner-city neighborhoods.