When it came time to discuss public health during his State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama saved his loudest statement for last.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote ‘no,’ that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote.

President Barack Obama

Nearly an hour into his speech, the president segued into plans for gun violence prevention — including mandatory background checks for gun consumers — by mentioning gun reform proposals supported by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, police chiefs and an “overwhelming majority of Americans.”

“Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress,” Obama said. “If you want to vote ‘no,’ that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote.

“Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.  Indeed no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect.  We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.”

Though he largely discussed the economy and job creation in his fifth State of the Union delivery, Obama set goals for several public health matters, including:

  • climate change: “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. … Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years;”
  • transportation: “I propose a ‘fix-it-first’ program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country;” and
  • health reform and Medicare: “Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further.  We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. … We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital; they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.”

On Feb. 8, APHA urged the president to pursue key public health initiatives, including supporting the Prevention and Public Health Fund, during his second term.