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10:17 AM

HHS Invests $270 Million In Public Health IT

The funds supporting infrastructure, research, and tracking are part of $750 million allocated for states' disease prevention efforts announced by the Department of Health and Human Services.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will allocate a total of $270 million for IT to support states' public health infrastructure, research, and data-tracking efforts. The funds are part of a $750 million investment in prevention and public health funded through the Affordable Care Act.

HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the announcement Wednesday, saying the funds will empower communities with tools and resources for local disease prevention and health initiatives. These initiatives include programs that help individuals prevent tobacco use, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Funds will also be targeted toward increasing immunizations.

"Prevention is something that can't just happen in a doctor's office. If we are to address the big health issues of our time, from physical inactivity to poor nutrition to tobacco use, it needs to happen in local communities," Sebelius said in a statement. "This investment is going to build on the prevention work already underway to help make sure that we are working effectively across the federal government as well as with private groups and state and local governments to help Americans live longer, healthier lives."

HHS said there are two critical areas that will receive IT funding. Public health infrastructure will receive $137 million to help state and local health departments meet 21st century challenges, including investments in IT and training for the public health workforce to enable detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and other health threats. Research and tracking will receive $133 million to help collect data to monitor the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the health of Americans and identify and disseminate evidence-based recommendations on important public health challenges.

In addition to the IT funding, two other critical areas will be addressed by the initiative. Community prevention will receive $298 million to help promote health and wellness in local communities, including efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use; improve nutrition and increase physical activity to prevent obesity; and coordinate and focus efforts to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

In addition, clinical prevention will receive $182 million to help improve access to preventive care, including increasing awareness of the new prevention benefits provided under healthcare reform. They will also help increase availability and use of immunizations, and help integrate behavioral health services into primary care settings.

Last year, $500 million of the Affordable Care Act's Prevention and Public Health Fund was distributed to states and communities to boost efforts to improve health, enhance healthcare quality, and foster the next generation of primary care professionals.

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