NMC Commentary

Can the Legislature Help In Improving the Health of our Community?

Yes! We are grateful for this help. Political support for improved health through prevention has been shown in international research to be a key component of measurable, meaningful, and sustained change.  This partnership with our elected officials is something that we must leverage, as the cost of preventable health problems is significant.

Did you know that the State Obesity report shows obesity in adults in Vermont has increased from 10% in 1990 to its current level of 27.6%?  Or that the RiseVT Measurement Study of 1st, 3rd, and 5th graders in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties in 2017 showed that 41% of our youth were overweight and obese?  Or that while the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products is growing dramatically and recent research shows that youth e-cigarette users are 4 times more likely to transition to traditional cigarettes?  Why does this matter?  Nationally, medical costs related to preventable conditions of asthma, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease have continually increased, from $1.5 billion in 2010 to over $2 billion in 2015, according to the Healthy Choices Vermont Coalition. The National Prevention Institute says, “For every dollar we spend on prevention, we see a five-to-one return on investment in just five years. We simply can’t fix our economy without it.”

That is a powerful message for our legislators as they consider policies and investments. There are several opportunities currently being discussed in Montpelier for our elected officials to make wise investments in a healthier future for all Vermonters, ultimately reducing the need for costly medical treatments. These include:

  • Expanding the Downtown Transportation Fund to its original level to help communities improve walkability and bikeability through the promising plans they made in Better Connections to increase transportation options, public health, and economic vitality in community centers;
  • Expanding the Quick Build program for communities to accelerate the implementation of projects that support public health, physical activity, and access to healthy foods to help prevent obesity and chronic conditions;
  • Appropriating dollars to the Bike/Pedestrian grant program for small-scale projects to help communities with simple, but critical, efforts to increase access and or safety for people choosing to bike or walk.
  • Funding of the Farm To School program that has benefited many communities in our region by bringing fresh and healthy local food into our schools so our children can enjoy healthier and more nutritious meals; and
  • Recommitting to the prevention of tobacco use in the face of the growth in e-cigarettes and vaping, particularly by following through on the tax on e-cigarettes and by joining the State of Maine and counties in New Hampshire, New York, and Massachusetts in raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21.

Our health is our most important personal asset. It is key to our personal financial picture and our quality of life. Heart disease and cancer and other chronic conditions can be prevented. Please join me in asking our legislators to help in our shared prevention efforts by implementing these positive steps forward.  Together as public, private, and political partners let’s RiseVT and make the healthy choice the easy choice for Franklin Grand Isle and all Vermonters.

— Jill Berry Bowen, RN, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer