National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness

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The National Prevention Strategy is a comprehensive plan that will help increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. Created by the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council in consultation with the public and an Advisory Group of outside experts, the Strategy recognizes that good health comes not just from receiving quality medical care but from stopping disease before it starts. Good health also comes from clean air and water, safe outdoor spaces for physical activity, safe worksites, healthy foods, violence-free environments and healthy homes. Prevention should be woven into all aspects of our lives, including where and how we live, learn, work and play. Everyone—businesses, educators, health care institutions, government, communities and every single American—has a role in creating a healthier nation.

Called for by the Affordable Care Act, the National Prevention Strategy includes actions that public and private partners can take to help Americans stay healthy and fit. It helps move the nation away from a health care system focused on sickness and disease to one focused on wellness and prevention.

Importance of Prevention

Increasing the focus on prevention in our communities will help improve America’s health, quality of life and prosperity. For example, seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases (such as cancer and heart disease), and almost one out of every two adults has at least one chronic illness, many of which are preventable. Racial and ethnic minority communities experience higher rates of obesity, cancer, diabetes and AIDS. Children are also becoming increasingly vulnerable. Today, almost one in every three children in our nation is overweight or obese which predisposes them to chronic disease and the numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities.

Focusing on preventing disease and illness before they occur will create healthier homes, workplaces, schools and communities so that people can live long and productive lives and reduce their healthcare costs. Better health positively impacts our communities and our economy:

  • With better health, children are in school more days and are better able to learn. Numerous studies have found that regular physical activity supports better learning. Student fitness levels have been correlated with academic achievement, including improved math, reading and writing scores.
  • With better health, adults are more productive and at work more days. Preventing disease increases productivity—asthma, high blood pressure, smoking and obesity each reduce annual productivity by between $200 and $440 per person.
  • With better health, seniors keep their independence. Support for older adults who choose to remain in their homes and communities and retain their independence (“aging in place”) helps promote and maintain positive mental and emotional health.

Investments in prevention across the life span complement and support treatment and care. Prevention policies and programs can be cost-effective, reduce health care costs, and improve productivity.

A Plan for Better Health and Wellness

The over arching goal of the National Prevention Strategy is to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. The strategy provides evidence-based recommendations that are fundamental to improving the nation’s health through the active engagement of all sectors of society to help achieve four broad strategic directions:

  • Building Healthy and Safe Community Environments: Prevention of disease starts in our communities and at home; not just in the doctor’s office. For example, businesses and employers can adopt practices to encourage their workforce to increase physical activity and reduce pollution (e.g., workplace flexibility, rideshare and vanpool programs, park-and-ride incentives, travel demand management initiatives, and telecommuting options).
  • Expanding Quality Preventive Services in Both Clinical and Community Settings: When people receive preventive care, such as immunizations and cancer screenings, they have better health and lower health care costs. For example, expanding the linkages between clinical and community prevention efforts, such as diabetes prevention programs that support preventive efforts among underserved groups and can improve access to preventive services.
  • Empowering People to Make Healthy Choices: Policies and programs can make healthy options the easy and affordable choice, and when people have access to actionable and easy-to-understand information and resources, they are empowered to make healthier choices. For example, health care professionals can use multiple communication tools (e.g., mobile phone applications, personal health records, and credible health websites) and culturally competent methods to support more traditional written and oral communication.
  • Eliminating Health Disparities: By eliminating disparities in achieving and maintaining health, we can help improve quality of life for all Americans. For example, health care providers can train and hire more qualified staff from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities.

To help achieve these goals, the Strategy identifies evidence-based recommendations that are most likely to reduce the burden of leading causes of preventable death and major illness. The Strategy’s seven priority areas are:

  • Tobacco free living
  • Preventing drug abuse and excessive alcohol use
  • Healthy eating
  • Active living
  • Injury and violence-free living
  • Reproductive and sexual health
  • Mental and emotional wellbeing

A Broad Effort to Promote Health and Wellness

The National Prevention Council, which is composed of the heads of 17 Federal agencies and chaired by the Surgeon General, was called for by the Affordable Care Act. The National Prevention Strategy was developed by the Council with input from stakeholders, the public, and the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. Under the coordination of the National Prevention Council and the advice of the Advisory Group, Federal agencies and private and public partners will work together to help implement the Strategy at the national, state, tribal, and local levels, recognizing the importance of a broad approach to addressing the health and well-being of our communities.

Already, a number of Obama Administration efforts are underway to help support and achieve the goals outlined in the National Prevention Strategy. Members of the President’s Cabinet are taking action to work together to implement programs to improve Americans’ lives, including the Great Outdoors Initiative, the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, and Executive Order 13548 to make the federal government a model employer of persons with disabilities. Through these efforts and others like the President’s Childhood Obesity Task Force and the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative aimed at combating childhood obesity, as well as programs supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Obama Administration is working to ensure every American has the opportunity to live their healthiest life possible.

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