RELEASE: Over 640 Physicians, Medical Students from 47 States Urge Congress Not to Pit Disease Prevention against Affordable Student Loans
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, over 640 physicians and medical students from 47 states are sending a petition to Senators urging them not to use the Prevention and Public Health Fund as the solution to keeping student loan rates low.
As a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the Prevention Fund is the most important investment to date in preventing chronic diseases. Every year, millions of Americans are plagued by preventable chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, and emphysema. To date, the Fund has already invested in programs in all 50 states that are helping communities improve nutrition, encourage exercise, and decrease smoking rates.
"The Prevention Fund has already made a difference in the health of South Side communities,” said Dr. Kohar Jones of Chicago, Illinois. “Medical students partnered with local high school students last summer to successfully advocate for a kitchen in a charter school in their South Chicago neighborhood. Instead of frozen and half-dethawed ham and cheese sandwiches that students never ate, school lunches now include a fresh salad and sandwich bar – made possible by ACA prevention funds that were disbursed to Chicago Public Schools for obesity prevention."
Dr. Chris Lillis of Fredericksburg, Virginia added, “As a physician who needed federally subsidized student loans to get through medical school, I would like to see interest rates kept low AND focus more of our health dollars on preventive strategies. Both legislative priorities help Americans in very real ways – they should not be pit against one another. My prescription: invest more in public health and preventive health – it will lead to a healthier country that can be more productive and significantly reduce our exploding health care costs.”
In April, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to keep student loan interest rates at 3.4% - instead of allowing them to double to 6.8% in July. The House bill, however, bypasses many other funding sources and instead targets the Prevention and Public Health Fund. According to a study by Trust for America’s Health, every $1 invested in evidence-based community prevention efforts will yield $5 in long-term savings.
Doctors and prevention experts argue that cutting Prevention Funds for the sake of short-term budget issues is short-sighted. Spearheaded by Doctors for America, the petition signed by physicians and medical students represents a growing movement of doctors across the country who are defending prevention as a national priority.