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Jeffrey Levi

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The National Prevention Strategy at One: Improving the Health of Individuals, Families and Communities

Posted: 06/14/2012 1:51 pm

On the first anniversary of the historic National Prevention Strategy: America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness, the country should join the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health and my organization, Trust for America's Health (TFAH) in celebrating the strategy for putting the country on a path toward improving the health and quality of life for individuals, families and communities.

The National Prevention Strategy (NPS) came at a vital moment, as today's kids could be the first generation in American history to live shorter, less-healthy lives than their parents and more than half of Americans are living with one or more serious, chronic diseases, ranging from Type 2 diabetes to cancer. Those rates are expected to increase significantly over the next two decades, largely due to the obesity epidemic and tobacco use.

Consequently, America faces two futures: If we continue on the same track, we're resigning millions of Americans to major health problems that could have been avoided; or we can invest in giving Americans the opportunity to be healthier while saving billions in health care costs, with the NPS and Prevention and Public Health Fund at the heart of these efforts.

Under the NPS, which was developed by the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, for the first time 17 federal agencies have begun to work together to move the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to prevention and wellness.

In addition, the NPS calls on all sectors -- state, tribal, local and territorial governments; business, industry and other private sector partners; philanthropic organizations; early learning centers, schools, colleges and universities; community and faith-based organizations; and all Americans -- to join with the federal government in a collaborative effort to achieve the strategy's goal to "increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life."

By committing to including health as a component of policies and programs, these federal agencies are setting an example for all sectors by recognizing how their policies and programs contribute to the nation's health and wellness. In addition, this cross-agency commitment shows how a focus on health and wellness improves their ability to address their core mission -- whether it be education, housing and urban development, transportation, or the many other areas represented on the National Prevention Council.

In conjunction with the anniversary, the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council released The National Prevention Council Action Plan: Implementing the National Prevention Strategy, which lays out the framework for implementation of the NPS by the 17 member agencies.

As noted in the action plan, there are many examples of common approaches being taken to improve health across the government's work. For instance, all federal campuses, including the Department of Defense and military bases, are moving toward going smoke-free in the near future. This means millions of additional Americans will be spared from the adverse health effects of secondhand smoke.

In addition, under the healthy eating priority, one of the NPS Federal Actions is to work to ensure that foods purchased, distributed, or served in federal programs and settings meet standards consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This action, which includes the Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, Veteran Affairs and the United States Department of Agriculture, will make healthier food choices more readily available to the millions of Americans who are federal employees, while also providing a strong model for the private sector and state and local governments on how they can improve the options they provide to their workforces.

This is an important first step.

I know that my colleagues on the advisory group are committed to assuring that we maintain the momentum of the past year and that real change results from the announcement of this implementation plan. If followed, the strategy will move the country from a sick care system to a true health care system by allowing easy access to resources that can help improve health and wellness for everyone.

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