Put your community prevention planning in high gear! After months of waiting, federal officials yesterday announced $145 million will be distributed nationally this year in Community Transformation Grants. This will make a significant investment in systemic change at the local level to reduce health disparities and chronic diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will distribute the grants, is finalizing details of exactly what they will fund and how the money will be distributed. Grants are expected to support innovative projects that involve broad coalitions of stakeholders in communities across the nation.

The $145 million is a first-year installment in what is designed to be a multiyear program to get at underlying causes of illness and inequities, including social, economic and environmental factors. The money comes from the Prevention Fund established in the Affordable Care Act. The $750 million in FY11 Prevention Fund spending was announced yesterday by HHS, and followed by a detailed listing of how the money would be allocated. It’s great to see this money going out to the states and local communities, even as Republicans in Congress propose ways to cut funding for all aspects of the ACA. You can help protect the Prevention Fund by publicizing the funds that are already helping your community. See the new state-by-state lists of FY10 funding put out yesterday by HHS.

Speaking of those cuts, on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee proposed billions of dollars in cuts to “discretionary” programs this year alone, including some that could have significant impacts on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. Those cuts include $1.3 billion from community health centers, which traditionally have fared well under Republicans, and which provide primary care to billions of low-income families at relatively low cost. It’s important to realize that a cut of this size would reverse the growth in federally qualified health centers supported so far through the ACA. That growth is explicitly designed to provide additional primary care services needed as millions of Americans get health insurance for the first time.

Other proposed cuts include $758 million from WIC, $210 million from the maternal and child health block grants, $405 million from community services block grants, and $96 million from substance abuse and mental health services. These cuts are by no means certain, and members of Congress need to hear about the damaging effects they would have.

— Alice Dembner, Deputy Policy Director