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Federal Council Thumbs Nose at Congress, Closing Comments on Prevention Plan Before Naming Advisors PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

New Prevention Council Thumbs Nose at Congress & Public by Closing Comments on National Strategy Prior to Naming Advisory Group

Summary: A new National Health Promotion, Public Health and Prevention Council with great potential broke its Congressional mandate in its first, critically important 6 months. The Council of federal agency directors was to develop a national strategy on health promotion, public health and prevention with required input from an Advisory Group of community experts. This Group was to include "integrative health practitioners," "health coaches", work site wellness experts and others. Public comment on the strategic plan was closed in January 2011 without the Council even naming the Advisory Group, much less getting its formal advice. Can we expect this Council to fundamentally shift the paradigm toward health and wellness, as the Council promises, when community experts are, as the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC) states "relegated to simply helping to implement something they were not able to frame"?
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US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin: Why the haste?
The site that was taking comments
on the proposed National Prevention (and Health Promotion) Strategy presently greets one with the following:
"The National Prevention Council sought two rounds of public input on a draft framework created for the National Prevention Strategy from October 1, 2010 through January 18, 2011. Public input has now been received on the elements of this framework that includes a vision, goals, strategic directions and recommendations. The public comment period on the National Prevention Strategy is now closed. We thank all of you who took the time to submit your comments and feedback."
Sounds like a wonderfully solicitious and open process.

Yet Congress mandated that the government leaders on this Council be informed by an Advisory Group of community experts
(see Section 4001 here). The Advisory Group was to include:
" ... a diverse group of licensed health professionals, including integrative health practitioners who have expertise in (bold added):
(i) worksite health promotion;
(ii) community services, including community health centers;

(iii) preventive medicine;

(iv) health coaching;

(v) public health education;

(vi) geriatrics; and
(vii) rehabilitation medicine."
The Council's 2010 Annual Status Report for the Council reiterated the promise that the Advisory Group would shape the National Strategy. Published in July, the 2010 Status Report assures Congress and the public that:
"The Strategy is being developed under the auspices of the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council. Input will be provided by the Advisory Group and various stakeholders." (page 2 - bold added)
ImageThe failure to appoint prior to completion of the plan has not gone unnoticed. Two of the most significant organizations in the integrative healthcare community each challenged the Council in their submissions on the draft plan.  Wayne Jonas, MD, CEO of the Samueli Institute, an organization that helped craft this concept with its Wellness Initiative for the Nation (WIN), wrote:
"The Council is tasked w/ processes for continual public input yet one of the best sources would be the Advisory Group which, to my knowledge, has not been appointed (despite the timeline that has passed as established during the July meeting), so believe that ought to be a priority."
Similarly, the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium wrote:
"The Advisory Group should immediately be appointed so it can be part of determining the strategy and not relegated to simply helping to implement something they were not able to frame."
ImageCharles Maclean, PhD, who serves on a consumer advisory group to the Institute for Health Improvement and has advised the Gladys McGarey Foundation on piolicy issues, writes:
"Appoint the required advisory task force NOW before any strategies or regulations are put in place.  Assure that there are savvy, open minded, collaborative representatives from Patient and Family Advocates and the major recognized and evolving alternative-integrated care professions ..."
Note: The full body of comments from the responses to the Council quoted here is printed in this separate Integrator article.

: In media management, December 23 of any year is a most excellent time to release an announcement or study that you want buried. Who is paying attention when you have gifts to buy or are already off on vacation? The same principal holds for releases of government documents and comment periods. Release it on December 23rd if you want no one to respond.

It was December 23, 2010 when the Council released its DRAFT National Prevention Strategy. The Council announced it would close its comment period a scant 21 days later, on January 13. (The date was later extended to the 18th.)

Maybe this timing wasn't intentional. Maybe it was for fear that if the Council didn't get rolling, the new Republican majority in the House would nip the Council in the bud. Honestly, I haven't asked.

Yet I wonder because such timing is aligned with moving forward without an Advisory Group of community experts in place. Many in the integrative practice community only knew the draft Strategy had been released because I stumbled upon the fact and sent out this Alert! on January 4, 2011.

The Council boldly declares on page 1 of the draft Strategy that this initiative "provides an unprecedented opportunity to shift the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention." That's titillating. Yet the Council determined that having formal advice from "integrative health practitioners" and "health coaches" and others would not be helpful in declaring a bold new strategy.

Instead, they would get "bold" and "new" as accidental ornaments on the same-old, same-old.

Ever been called in to help muster energy behind an initiative you think missed the boat or is wrong-headed in a half dozen important ways? Check out these comments from the integrative practice community and you'll see just how far off from transformational it is.

Send your comments to
for inclusion in a future Integrator.

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