Why Prevention Matters
The human and financial cost of chronic disease is a significant public health issue. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer make up the largest portion of the disease burden in Los Angeles County. Morbidity associated with these conditions impacts quality of life and substantially increases the cost of providing healthcare. The largest portion of health care resources is still spent on the diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease while only a very small amount is spent on prevention efforts. However, prevention, which includes screenings, health education and strategies to promote a healthy lifestyle and environment, is an important way public health programs can improve health and wellness in Los Angeles County.
The Los Angeles County Office of Women’s Health has launched a “Prevention Matters!” campaign with a focus on heart health, the #1 killer of women. The goal of the campaign is to help reduce the burden of chronic disease among women over age 40 by raising awareness, providing education, promoting advocacy and policy recommendations, and increasing access for the age-appropriate screenings of low-income women.
This multi-cultural, multi-lingual awareness, education, advocacy and screening campaign targeting low-income women is being implemented in increments over several years.
Goals of the Prevention Matters! Healthy Heart campaign:
- Increase awareness and education about the risk factors for heart disease;
- Promote a healthy lifestyle;
- Increase access to preventive services by addressing barriers to care;
- Increase the number of women screened for heart disease risk factors;
- Establish a medical home for women identified as “at-risk;”
- Identify and prioritize advocacy and policy opportunities.
Components of the Prevention Matters! campaign include:
- A Prevention Matters! Community Partner network of educational, clinical, outreach and advocacy partnerships including preventive, diagnostic and treatment services for low-income women;
- A Health Action Kit containing important cardiovascular and healthy lifestyle information as well as a risk assessment tool, screening guidelines, and on-line resources and samples;
- Culturally and linguistically-appropriate educational and promotional materials with signature pieces on heart health and prevention distributed through our community partner network and key stakeholders;
- Community, corporate and Department of Health Services partnerships to enhance awareness, education, outreach and service provision;
- Community dialogues featuring multi-cultural, multi-lingual medical experts on important women’s health issues for the consumer, provider, Department of Health Services and legislative communities;
- A multi-lingual speaker’s bureau for use by community partners;
- A multi-cultural mobile clinic providing a heart disease risk assessment, comprehensive health screenings and education to at-risk, low-income women; screenings include hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, body mass index and cervical cancer, as well as gynecological and clinical breast exams;
- A 7 language appointment and referral hotline identifying low or no-cost clinical resources for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. (Languages include: English, Spanish, Armenian, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Vietnamese);
- A multi-lingual heart disease risk assessment to women calling the hotline to assist with targeted education, medical, and educational referrals;
- Utilization of the mainstream and ethnic media for distribution of the Prevention Matters! campaign message, maximizing no-cost media exposure;
- A multi-lingual electronic Educational Resource Directory identifying heart health resources and classes available in the community and within the Department of Health Services;
- The integration of heart disease risk assessments for low-income women over age 40 into the breast and cervical cancer screening encounter at county and community clinics;
- The development of policy agenda recommendations as part of the county’s legislative efforts;
- The Identification and dissemination of pending legislation affecting access, disparities, and the health care of women;
- Events and informational briefs on women’s health issues targeted to legislators, policymakers and key stakeholders.
The importance of preventive health screenings and education cannot be overstated, yet research shows that money, language, cultural and other access issues keep many women from utilizing the health care system, thus increasing long-term risks. Low-income women, especially women of color, are most at risk for future disability and chronic health conditions.
As the population ages, demand for services will increase dramatically in a health care system already overburdened. As health care costs continue to rise at an alarming rate, strategies for prevention are increasingly important in order to address the very serious human, social and economic consequences of chronic illness. Prevention programs are likely to have a significant impact on chronic disease in the multi-cultural, multi-lingual, low-income communities of women.