Door to door, preaching healthy living

From the New York Times:

Like a missionary, Michael Bailey, a county health worker, spends his days driving his beat-up Nissan around this city’s poorest neighborhood, spreading the word in barber shops and convenience stores about the benefits of healthy diet and exercise. “Look at the kids,” he said. “Overweight, huffing and wheezing. Their lives will be miserable if this doesn’t change.”

Mr. Bailey believes that food is slowly killing his community here, and signing people up for a program to prevent heart disease is his way of saving souls.

Local governments across the country are creating dozens of such experiments with money from the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. It is part of a broad national effort set in motion by the law to nudge a health care system geared toward responding to illness to one that tries to stop people from getting sick in the first place. To that end, the law created the $10 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund, the largest-ever federal investment in community prevention.

Supporters say the effort is long overdue in an age where preventable disease is the single largest cause of death. Indeed, unhealthy behaviors, like smoking and poor diet, account for 40 percent of premature deaths in the United States, while poor health care and limited access to the health care system accounted for a tenth of such deaths, according to an analysis of federal data and mortality studies by J. Michael McGinnis, a senior scholar at the Institute of Medicine.

But critics say efforts to influence behavior will have only a modest effect without policy measures like taxes on soda and restrictions on marketing to children to change the food environment.

Read the complete article here.

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