September 9, 2008
As Presidential Debates Approach, American Dietetic Association Says Prevention is Key to National Health-Care Reform
To: NATIONAL EDITORS
Contact: Doris Acosta of the American Dietetic Association, +1- 800/877-1600, ext. 4822, [email protected]
OXFORD, Miss., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In advance of the first 2008 Presidential candidates' debate later this month, the American Dietetic Association, the nation's largest association of food and nutrition professionals, is calling for reform of the nation's health-care system that begins "by integrating prevention into health care."
"Whoever wins the 2008 Presidential election must make health- care a priority and work with the 111th Congress to enact meaningful reform," said registered dietitian Evelyn Crayton, a professor and assistant director of family and community programs at Auburn University and a member of ADA's Board of Directors.
Crayton was one of three experts invited to speak Monday, September 8, at the University of Mississippi on nutrition, physical activity and health policy in the lead-up to the September 28 debate on the university's campus.
According to Crayton, prevention is generally overlooked in American health-care systems. "As a registered dietitian, I can tell you many of the most costly disabling conditions can be prevented through nutrition strategies. With proper nutrition support, many complications can be averted or delayed. Federal attention to public nutrition and investment in nutrition care, education and research is essential."
Statistics show nutrition and diet are associated with seven of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, including the "Big Three" -- heart disease, cancer and stroke. A century ago, she noted, the leading causes of death were bacterial and viral diseases.
"From the beginning of time, the primary issue has been the adequacy of the diet. But now, that is no longer true," Crayton said. "Today overweight and obesity represent the largest manifestation of malnutrition in the United States, both coexisting with and at times overshadowing hunger as the most significant nutrition problem facing the nation," she said.
Speaking on behalf of the American Dietetic Association, Crayton said obesity and overweight call for health strategies to prevent them, rather than approaches to treat them, and an appropriate focal point should be children, to prevent childhood obesity. If we don't act to stop current trends, the current generation of children will have shorter life expectancy than their parents. "Although parents want to help their children grow up to be healthy, they often don't know how to on their own. Only the very luckiest of families are able to see a registered dietitian for nutrition assessment and intervention, where this important service is covered by the family's insurance plan," Crayton said.
Coverage for proven cost-effective nutrition under Medicare also is limited -- under a perverse policy that will pay for screening for pre-diabetes, but make no referral or cover the cost of a patient attempting to avert diabetes. "This makes no sense," Crayton said.
"Study after study shows adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity to achieve a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can prevent the onset of diabetes."
Crayton said ADA wants prevention playing a more balanced role in our health-care system. The private sector, she said, needs to ensure future care is patient-centered. Financing systems in health care must be dynamic enough to capture savings from disease prevention and management of chronic conditions. "We have to equip the public -- before they are patients -- with information, motivation and skills they can use to be healthy."
The American Dietetic Association is focused on federal nutrition education and nutrition research in addition to health policy laws, Crayton said, adding that nutrition information on its own does not translate into knowledge or knowledge necessarily into appropriate action. "Consumers have countless food options and they revere the freedom to make their own choices," she said.
"Policies based on choice imply our citizens have information, knowledge and skills to make healthy choices," Crayton said, adding that registered dietitians are the nutrition experts who provide intensive nutrition assessment, personalized intervention and ongoing counseling.
The American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org.
SOURCE American Dietetic Association
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