HHS Backs Preventive Care

Urging Americans to take responsibility for their health, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson launched a $15 million program yesterday to encourage communities to do more to prevent chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

"Our current health care system is not structured to deal with the escalating costs of treating diseases that are largely preventable through changes in our lifestyle choices," including having a better diet and more exercise, Thompson said. He noted that heart disease and strokes will cost the country more than $351 billion in 2003.

The $15 million is slated to go to communities to promote prevention through changes as simple as building sidewalks to encourage people to walk more. Daily exercise such as walking can prevent and even reverse heart disease and diabetes, and prevent cancer and strokes.

Charge Card Use Is Criticized

Poor supervision at the Department of Housing and Urban Development led to millions of dollars in improper or questionable transactions on charge cards that had been issued to streamline purchases, congressional investigators said.

In 2001, when HUD workers charged about $10 million in supplies, HUD lacked paperwork to support more than $1.3 million in purchases, including more than $74,000 at computer and electronic stores and $27,000 at department stores such as Macy's and Sears, according to the General Accounting Office. Purchases totaling an additional $1 million were made by HUD workers who split up the transactions to avoid spending limits, the GAO audit found. In one case, a cardholder bought nine personal digital assistants and accessories at one store in two transactions five minutes apart.

Housing officials said they have canceled 12 cards and lowered the spending limits on more than 100 other accounts in the past year. The monitoring of purchases has been stepped up, said Vickers Meadows, HUD's assistant secretary for administration.

-- Compiled from reports by

the Associated Press and Reuters