Letter to Senate on Use of Prevention Fund for Zika Virus

May 13, 2016

Senator Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
U.S. Capitol, S-230
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Harry Reid
Minority Leader
United States Senate
U.S. Capitol, S-221
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid:

On behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a nonpartisan organization representing more than 100,000 registered dietitian nutritionists and dietetic technicians, registered, we are writing to strongly urge you to oppose any effort to use the Prevention and Public Health Fund (the Prevention Fund) as an offset for emergency supplemental funding for the nation's response to the Zika virus.

The Academy has joined dozens of other groups in supporting emergency funding to respond to the Zika virus. Preparing for Zika is vital to our national health security, but it cannot be done at the expense of preventing and addressing other diseases and conditions. Investments in public health made possible by the Prevention Fund are essential for tackling the biggest health problems facing this country. They help prepare for and control emerging and persistent infectious disease threats; antibiotic resistance; the dramatic rise in prescription painkiller and heroin use; and chronic diseases related to tobacco use, poor nutrition and obesity.

In its first six years, the Prevention Fund has been invested in our communities and in our families to help provide strategies for long-term behavior change including tobacco use prevention, healthy eating and active living, as well as childhood immunizations and clinical prevention. Cutting the Fund would dramatically impede efforts now underway to improve health in every state, cost jobs and increase chronic disease.

Academy members and your constituents play a critical role in the successful planning and implementation of nutrition programs receiving support from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Their efforts ensure millions of Americans have information and education they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. RDNs play a critical role in guaranteeing that people have access to healthy food at school, at work, at home and in community settings, which helps stem the tide of obesity and other costly chronic diseases. These efforts will be lost without funding.

This latest amendment is but one in a series of approaches that appears to be a troubling trend – proposing to use dedicated investments in preventing disease as a piggy bank to fund more treatment or to respond to emergencies. The Zika virus underscores what the Academy and many other public health organizations have been sounding the alarm on for years: We need a sustained, long-term investment in public health and prevention to ensure our nation's health and safety. We urge you to oppose efforts to use the Prevention Fund as an offset for Zika supplemental funding or any other legislation. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Dr. Evelyn F. Crayton, RDN, LDN, FAND
President, 2015-2016
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics