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Administration Urges Preventive Care Through Outreach Effort

By Melissa Attias, CQ Roll Call

June 11, 2015 -- Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell recently announced the launch of a new prevention and health literacy campaign to help educate both the newly insured and those who have long had health coverage.

Speaking before a friendly crowd at the Enroll America national conference, Burwell said HHS, the White House and the surgeon general are collaborating on the campaign—called Healthy Self—and also will be partnering with the private sector. By the end of August, she said, 50 events will have occurred across the country to help link people with health care. Enroll America is the group that led the effort to sign people up for coverage under the 2010 health care law.

"Coverage is an important step, and it gets a lot of attention, but it's only one piece of the puzzle," Burwell said in her prepared remarks. "How we get people to use their coverage has the potential to create healthier communities, discover illnesses earlier on when they're easier to treat and drive down health costs across the system."

A HHS spokesman said the 50 outreach events will begin June 15 when Burwell travels to Wisconsin and that each of the department's 10 regions will host five events. A big chunk of the campaign will be digital to connect with the so-called young invincibles who aren't using preventive services, such as encouraging individuals to post a "#HealthySelfie" on social media of healthy activities like taking the stairs or choosing to eat a salad.

Burwell also noted that many people still do not know about the free preventive services and consumer protections that they have access to under the health law. The campaign will build on the Coverage to Care initiative created last year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help newly-insured people learn about their insurance and how to use it.

Burwell said Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy will focus on issues such as healthy eating, physical activity, staying tobacco- and drug-free as well as mental well-being and violence. That work will connect with other government efforts, including First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative.

At the White House, the HHS spokesman said Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett will be working at length on outreach to providers, nonprofits, hospital associations and other places where people receive care and health information.

The campaign also will prioritize reaching women, because they often make the health care decisions for their families and have distinct health needs, according to Burwell.

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