Senate Health Bill Holds Onto Grants For Healthier Transportation

Back in June, when the Senate was in the early stages of its marathon health care reform debate, several Republicans blasted
the  proposed legislation for including a grant program aimed at
encouraging construction of local infrastructure to promote healthier
movement.

kids.jpgThe
new Senate health bill held onto a billion-dollar grant program to
promote walking to school, among other practices. (Photo: Ctr. for Neighborhood Tech.)

Citing the possibility of more paved sidewalks, jungle gyms, and bike paths, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) lamented: "[H]ow can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?"

Despite loud protestations from the GOP and conservative think tanks
about the grants, dubbed "Community Transformation" aid, it has
survived intact in the final health reform bill that Democratic leaders
will call up for a crucial test vote tomorrow.

The
final Senate legislation opens the Community Transformation awards to
non-profit groups as well as state and local governments. Proposals to
promote increased physical exercise and "the infrastructure to support
active living" would be eligible for funding, and grant recipients
would be required to measure the resulting local health benefits.

The
amount of money set aside for the program is not specified in the
Senate bill. The House health bill limited annual funding to $1.6
billion, while the upper chamber of Congress names Community
Transformation grants as one eligible use for a "prevention and public
health fund" that would receive $5 billion by the year 2015.

No matter how you slice it, however, the Senate has recognized the maxim that transportation reform is health reform.