President Obama reveals plan to avoid sequester cuts; APHA advocates in support of prematurity prevention bill; does supersize ban alleviate health disparities? Those stories and more topping public health headlines today, Wednesday, February 6, 2013.

USAToday – Obama seeks short-term budget plan to avoid sequester
President Obama called on Congress on Tuesday to avoid a series of automatic budget cuts next month by passing a short-term budget plan this month.  “Deep indiscriminate cuts to things like education and training, energy, and national security will cost us jobs, and it will slow down our recovery,” Obama said during brief remarks at the White House.

New York Times – People With Mental Illness More Likely to Be Smokers, Study Finds
People with mental illness are 70 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes than people without mental illness, two federal health agencies reported Tuesday. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that one of every three adults with mental illness smokes, compared with one in five adults without mental illness.

APHA partner letter to endorsing the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early Reauthorization Act
The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention.  The Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth created by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidencebased interventions to prevent preterm birth. Due to the momentum of the 2006 PREEMIE Act, we are making progress. Over the last 5 years, the preterm birth rate has declined, and now stands below 12 percent for the first time in nearly a decade.  The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will continue to fuel our progress by supporting federal research and promoting known interventions and community initiatives.

WTOP – Gun control debate: O’Malley to testify
Gov. Martin O’Malley will testify Wednesday before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on a comprehensive gun-control measure he is backing this year. O’Malley, a Democrat, wants to ban assault weapons and create stricter licensing requirements for handguns.

Food Politics – Soda-size cap is a public health issue
As an advocate for public health, I think a soda cap makes sense. Sixteen ounces provides two full servings, about 50 grams of sugars, and 200 calories – 10 percent of daily calories for someone who consumes 2,000 calories a day.  That’s a generous amount. In the 1950s, Coca-Cola advertised this size as large enough to serve three people. You may not care whether sodas are bad for health, but plenty of other people do. These include, among others, officials who must spend taxpayer dollars to care for the health of people with obesity-related chronic illnesses, employers dealing with a chronically ill workforce, the parents and teachers of overweight children, dentists who treat tooth decay, and a military desperate for recruits who can meet fitness standards.

Union Leader – Charles Arlinghaus: On the health care exchanges, don’t count on federal money
As the governor and Legislature struggle to put together a balanced budget, regulators are considering two budget dangers: helping the federal government regulate the new federal health law (the health care exchange) and a costly expansion of Medicaid. Lawmakers should move cautiously and know that the federal government is eager to shift costs to New Hampshire taxpayers when it has the chance.