Announced last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department is one of 44 communities around the country to receive a portion of the $372.8 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant awards funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The initiative is designed to improve the health of the American public by reducing chronic disease and promoting wellness.
In Santa Clara County, 10.5% of youth and 10.7% of adults are smokers. And nationwide each year, 420,000 people die from a tobacco related disease, while tobacco smoking costs more than $190 billion in lost productivity and health care costs.
“This $7 million ARRA award from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Santa Clara County’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work Tobacco Prevention and Control Program proves once again that our region remains at the cutting edge of disease prevention and preparedness,” said Rep. Mike Honda. “The inclusion of youth activists from the Community Advocate Teens of Today and other youth health advocates is an innovative and necessary step in continuing the battle against lung cancer and other diseases associated with smoking; their activism and the expected 25% decrease in youth smoking prevalence which will result from the CPPW program will significantly contribute to the encouraging national decline in teen smoking rates. I commend the Santa Clara County Public Health Department on their hard work protecting the health of all our county’s residents.”
“Today’s announcement that $6.9 million is on its way to Santa Clara County is extraordinary news,” said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo. “These dollars will help prevent many diseases and deaths related to tobacco and I’m thrilled that so many of my constituents will lead healthier lives.”
“I’m happy to see Santa Clara County using federal dollars to improve the health of our community,” noted Rep. Zoe Lofgren. “The Communities Putting Prevention to Work Tobacco Prevention and Control Program will help county public health officials focus their efforts on local populations with disproportionately high numbers of smokers. By helping people quit smoking and keeping kids from ever starting, we improve the health of our entire community and lower health care costs for everyone.”
“As a former smoker, I know how difficult it can be to quit,” said President Ken Yeager, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, and a member of the Leadership Team for implementing the new program. “These ARRA funds will go a long way toward helping smokers quit while preventing others—particularly teenagers—from starting to smoke to begin with.”
The Santa Clara County CPPW Tobacco Prevention and Control Program will focus on five main strategies:
1) Creating smoke-free skilled nursing, mental health, and youth facilities to reduce secondhand smoke exposure and related health implications;
2) Limiting youth access to tobacco and outdoor advertising close to schools to reduce the number of youth who start smoking;
3) Advocating for an increased statewide tobacco tax in California, which now has the 32nd lowest tobacco tax in the nation, to increase the price of cigarettes and deter tobacco use;
4) Developing a tobacco cessation network and enabling local organizations to provide nicotine replacement therapy in the community; and
5) Advocating for development of tobacco retail licensing in Santa Clara County and its cities to monitor tobacco sellers and provide revenue for tobacco education.
“The Tobacco Prevention and Control Program will focus efforts on those who smoke in disproportionately high numbers and suffer from the burdens of chronic disease,” said Martin D. Fenstersheib, County Health Officer. “These funds and our goals for the program will help more of our residents realize better health, which contributes to having a healthier community.”
For example, in Santa Clara County, of those who smoke every day or some days, 31.9% have household income of less than $20,800. A national study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the proportion of income that the lowest U.S. income earners spend on tobacco is 1.4%, while the top spends only .03%. That means the poor proportionately spend more than four hundred times the percentage of their income on tobacco than do the top-earners.
“The County will partner with local officials and organizations throughout the community to best use these new resources and funds for tobacco prevention and control activities,” said Dan Peddycord, Santa Clara County Public Health Director. “Santa Clara County has made tremendous strides in this area of chronic disease.”
The new CPPW program will build upon Public Health’s Steps to a Healthier Santa Clara County, a CDC established chronic disease prevention and education collaboration that included tobacco prevention efforts. So far the collaboration has resulted in a 5.3% drop in smoking prevalence between 1990 and 2002, and a further decline between 2002 to 2009 of approximately 2% among adults and 3% among youth.
Nationwide, more than 75 cents of every health care dollar – or $1.7 trillion annually – goes toward the treatment of chronic illness, according to the Almanac of Chronic Disease, 2009.
“The cost of managing chronic diseases in Santa Clara County continues to grow,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith. “Unless we do more to prevent cancer, heart and lung disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases from occurring in the first place—the ultimate goal of our community project—we will never be able to bring health care spending under control.”