Tobacco and Obesity Prevention: Now competing for limited funding?
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine editorial, Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., and Kenneth E. Warner, Ph.D.write that, at a time when health funding sources are focusing efforts and dollars on obesity prevention, smoking remains by far the most common cause of preventable death and disability in the U.S.
“It is tempting,” they say “to believe that the battle is largely won and that we should move on to other pressing public health issues. But the prevalence of smoking in the United States hovers at 20%, more than 8 million people are sick or disabled as a result of tobacco use, and smoking kills
450,000 Americans annually.”
However, Ken Thorpe, professor of health policy at Emory University, says obesity rates have doubled since 1985, and health problems related to obesity account for more than 30 percent of the increase in health care spending: “The smoking rate has been coming down - moving in the right direction. Obesity is moving in the wrong direction.”
Now the New York Times writes that the “steep drop-off in private funds” addressing tobacco control “illustrates the competition under way for money as public health priorities shift. In the race for preventive health care dollars, from charities and from federal and state government sources, the tobacco warriors have become a big loser.”
As Brett Hamilton, Executive Director, of the Tobacco-Free Coalition of Oregon, writes, “I continue talk about the importance of coordinating our public health messaging especially as we enter the political season when both a tobacco tax and a soda tax might be in play. I am fearful that the competition between obesity and tobacco could be used by our opponents to hurt both efforts.”
What do you make of all this?
Is tobacco control becoming under-funded because obesity prevention is the new sexy trend?
Do you agree with Dr. Thorpe, whom the New York Times says, defends the shifting resources?
Or do you agree with Dr. Howard K. Koh, assistant secretary for health, who says that “Rather than pitting one disease against another, we want to uphold comprehensive prevention policies.”
Or is that an unrealistic supposition?