When people are healthy, children do better in school, workers are more productive, families have more money in their wallets every month, and businesses can add jobs because their health costs are lower.
Why, then does Governor LePage recommend gutting Maine’s only state source of tobacco and obesity prevention funds? His proposal basically eliminates the Healthy Maine Partnerships and wipes out most of the state tobacco and obesity programs. It takes the minuscule amount of money (less than 1% of health care dollars) that we spend on prevention and adds it to the other 99%--to care for people once they are already sick. The real kicker is that the money he proposes taking comes from the lawsuit with the tobacco industry. We get that money to use to prevent kids from starting and helping smokers to quit. We need to honor that legacy.
As you may have heard in the news, doctors, public health providers, students and regular people from all over Maine descended on Augusta to show their opposition to the Governor’s plan to dismantle the Fund for a Healthy Maine and spend our limited and precious prevention dollars on primary care. Now, we at the American Heart Association completely support primary care, but when we spend less than 1% of our health care dollars on prevention, we need to keep that money used as intended. We were proud to stand with the Friends of the Fund for a Healthy Maine (I am in the front row) and remind legislators that if they cut the tobacco program we will see:
An increase in youth smoking rate of 6.8%,
3,660 more Maine kids growing up to become addicted adult smokers,
1,290 more kids growing up to die prematurely from smoking.
Everyone knows that the best way to improve health and lower costs for families is to prevent illness and addiction, not treat it after the fact. We need to tell our policymakers to reject the proposal to dismantle Maine’s public health system and defund efforts that help parents protect their kids from tobacco use. Keeping the Fund for a Healthy Maine working to prevent disease and promote good health is our best opportunity to support healthy families and reduce heart disease in the future. We need to protect the future.