HHS awarding $200M to fight chronic diseases

The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will spend more than $200 million over the next year to fight chronic diseases that make up the vast majority of the country’s spending on medical care.

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Federal dollars will be awarded to nearly 200 health departments and community health organizations to prevent and control the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Each state will receive at least a half-million dollars, and 11 states will receive at least $5 million.

The awards will be focused on high-risk populations, such as individuals who smoke, eat poorly and do not exercise regularly.

“Today’s news is important progress in our work to transition from a health care system focused on treating the sick to one that also helps keep people well throughout their lives,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a release.

About $35 million will support a national program called Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH). Another $5 million will be devoted to areas where more than 40 percent of adults are obese, including Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.

The grants are part of the prevention fund under the Affordable Care Act, which will devote about $12 billion over the next decade to preventative healthcare.

Curbing the rates of chronic disease was a core part of the Obama administration’s healthcare reform push. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans are required to cover preventative care.

Preventable diseases cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and tobacco use, high blood pressure and obesity are among the leading causes of death nationally.

About $96 billion is spent each year on medical care related to smoking, and $60 billion is spent on conditions caused by obesity, according to an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.