At Gov. LePage’s town meeting in Westbrook on Wednesday, there was a question regarding the future of Healthy Maine Partnerships in light of the proposed dismantling of the state’s public health system.

The citizen cited Healthy Maine Partnerships’ long-standing success in reducing Maine’s youth smoking rate from one of the highest in the nation to one of the lowest.

LePage responded by calling Healthy Maine Partnerships “a poster program,” stating that much of its work involved “hanging posters in hallways and schools.”

LePage and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services believe that Healthy Maine Partnerships monies should be channeled to primary care practices, with the assumption that providers will tackle issues once reserved for community public health systems.

The Fund for a Healthy Maine, which supports Healthy Maine Partnerships, is not taxpayer dollars. It is part of the 1998 settlement with the tobacco industry for the recovery of tobacco-related health care costs and to develop strategies for anti-tobacco/smoking initiatives.

Primary care is only one piece of health care. Both in the U.S. and in Maine, community public health systems have long played a critical role in disease prevention, school-based health care, local policy change and tackling emerging health threats. Both systems have co-existed for over a century and work best in this model.

Healthy Maine Partnerships provides a crucial platform for communities to pool private, state and federal resources for prevention, helping citizens change behaviors and lowering health care costs. Using posters is only one of many successful, comprehensive, evidence-based strategies used by Healthy Maine Partnerships.

The idea of dismantling what has proven successful makes me wonder about our governor’s in-depth knowledge of and priorities for best health promotion practices in Maine.

Becky Bell