More than $119 million awarded to support public health efforts

April 15, 2010

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded more than $119 million to states and U.S. territories to support public health efforts to reduce obesity, increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and decrease smoking.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded more than $119 million to states and U.S. territories to support public health efforts to reduce obesity, increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and decrease smoking. The money supports one of several components in the department's prevention and wellness initiative, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, which is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"Our goal through these statewide projects is to help make healthy choices the easier choices for all Americans, no matter where they live," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press statement. "When we improve obesity-related and tobacco policies, we make it that much easier for people to eat right, to get more physical activity, and to avoid or stop smoking."

Exactly how states and territories use the money to best achieve those goals is still being debated.

“I would recommend the primary focus for investment of dollars be related to nutrition and eating habits,” says Paula Sauer, vice president of Care Management at Medical Mutual of Ohio Family of Companies. “The number problem facing the country at this point relates to chronic diseases that run hand in hand with weight management.”

Sauer also recommends working to develop obesity task forces with the Department of Health and address obesity through requirements that should be instituted at schools.

The more than $119 million in funding - provided to 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and six Pacific territories - will focus on efforts to help communities and schools support healthy choices through a variety of methods including using media to support healthy food and beverage choices and increased physical activity, and increasing access to healthy choices and safe places to be active. Awards will also support efforts to increase tobacco cessation through quit-lines and media campaigns and additional funding was provided to 13 states to support special initiatives.