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Div. of Media Relations
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February 1, 2002
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Press Release

HHS To Propose New Initiative to
Build Healthy Communities

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced that President Bush's fiscal year 2003 budget proposal will include $20 million for a new Healthy Communities Innovation Initiative, an effort to bring together communitywide resources to help prevent diabetes, asthma, and obesity. The initiative is part of the department's broader focus on health prevention and will be administered by HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CDC's Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

"Too many Americans suffer the daily effects of diabetes, asthma, and obesity. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is the increasing toll all three of these afflictions are taking on our children," Secretary Thompson said. "Focusing on prevention is one of our major goals at HHS. The Healthy Communities Innovation Initiative will build partnerships at the local community level so that we can begin to prevent new cases of diabetes, asthma, and obesity from occurring."

The Healthy Communities Innovation Initiative will fund demonstration projects in five communities to enhance access to services, encourage positive behavioral changes and improve community health. Communities participating in the initiative will match federal resources to develop coalitions between private and public organizations working in the areas of prevention for medical, social, educational, business, religious, and civic services.

In addition, CDC will initiate a $5 million complementary effort, that will consist of an integrated health communications campaign to teach Americans that even small to moderate changes in lifestyle can make dramatic differences in health.

Diabetes, asthma, and obesity were chosen as targets for this innovative new demonstration program because of their debilitating effects and their rapidly increasing prevalence in the United States. The number of persons with diabetes in the United States has nearly doubled in the past decade to affect 16 million people. An estimated 10 million adults and 5 million children suffer from asthma, and the number of cases of obesity in the United States has increased more than 50 percent over the past two decades. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and is also associated with heart attack, stroke, blindness, and loss of limb. Asthma is responsible for approximately 500,000 hospitalizations, 5,000 deaths and 134 million days of restricted activity each year in the United States. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and asthma. The new initiative announced today is one aspect of an overall focus on prevention at HHS. In the coming months, Secretary Thompson will announce additional activities to promote prevention as the best way to ensure Americans' good health. In addition, prevention efforts begun in 2001 include the Closing the Health Gap initiative with ABC Radio Networks and the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity. Closing the Health Gap brings health information to African-American communities to help people in these communities take charge of their health (see The Surgeon General's Call to Action called on local communities to collaborate with public and private partners to develop actions to prevent obesity, the same principle behind the Healthy Communities Innovation Initiative.

"This year, I intend to ignite a national dialogue about the state of America's health," said Secretary Thompson. "Individuals have the power to protect their health, and prevention is the key. By adopting healthy behaviors, we can reduce the risk of illness and disease."


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at

Related Information
Obesity Trends
U.S. Maps - Prevalence of Diabetes

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This page last updated May 17, 2002

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