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Letter from ADA President Jessie Pavlinac to President Obama Regarding Health Care Reform

September 4, 2009       

The President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The American Dietetic Association applauds your address to the Congress next week in order to draw the debate on health reform back to the issues that matter most to the nation. Americans from all walks of life resonated and responded to your 2008 presidential campaign in part because you express their aspirations for new and better health policies in the United States, so that every American can be assured of access to affordable, high-quality care.

Today, many of us continue to support transformational change away from a "sick" care system to one that actually helps Americans to be healthier. The American Dietetic Association believes we need smarter health care that tilts the scale toward more public health strategies to encourage people to be healthier. We need primary care physicians and teams of professionals to take care of people in their own communities. If someone becomes sick away from home or relies on more than one physician, we need a system of electronic medical records to facilitate their care and treatment.

As the 2009-2010 president of the American Dietetic Association, I am pleased to tell you ADA is committed to doing our part to support a dialogue leading to meaningful health reform that benefits all Americans. ADA is the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the world. We believe a simple, yet bold concept should guide American health reform: The changes we make in policies and programs should actually improve the health of Americans. The first step to achieve that goal is to recognize the role nutrition plays in promoting health and in preventing and managing disease.

There is a high price to be paid when nutrition is not made central to the nation's health policies. Individuals and society are burdened with huge personal and economic costs of malnutrition in all its forms. Yet the shocking truth is that the United States is a nation of overfed and undernourished people.

Obesity has reached a point where two-thirds of adults and one in five children are overweight or obese, yet few of us achieve a diet consistent with the nation's Dietary Guidelines for intake of adequate nutrients for proper growth, development and sustained health. We annually spend an estimated $147 billion addressing these conditions and the numerous diseases associated with overweight and obesity: diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and arthritis among them.

ADA believes the experts are right when they call for shifting from our current system that is designed to treat the sick and injured to a better one that promotes a healthy lifestyle and includes more preventive services. Unfortunately, health reform plans in Congress seem to have lost sight of the goal of keeping people healthy, preventing chronic illnesses or managing those illnesses to slow disease progression if prevention doesn't work. Studies have shown 75 percent of the increased cost of health care can be attributed to chronic diseases. If we focus on prevention of many of these diseases, we can both save lives and save money.

At this point, Congress seems unable to see beyond the matrix of "more of the same" in health care. If health reform efforts ultimately produce such an outcome, we will have lost the opportunity to transform our health systems and do it in a way that both addresses the long-term fiscal needs of the nation and improves the health status of all Americans. We will have missed both the moral and the fiscal imperative that you so clearly identified.

ADA and its 70,000 registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, registered know that nutrition is the foundation of health. It makes sense to rely on proven nutrition strategies to prevent and manage many of the most expensive and prevalent diseases facing Americans. Prevention that emphasizes nutrition can lead the way toward a transformation of our health care system that fulfills the promises of your campaign.

The American Dietetic Association and our members look forward to the opportunity to support you and other national leaders in making meaningful health reform come to pass.

Sincerely,

Jessie M. Pavlinac, MS, RD, CSR, LD
ADA President

CC: Rahm Emanuel
David Axelrod
Nancy-Ann DeParle
Kathleen Sebelius