The following is a statement from Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America's Health (TFAH) in response to the release of the new report Beyond Health Care: Directions to a Healthier America by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America:
"Every American should have the opportunity to be as healthy as he or she can be. And every community should be safe from threats to its health. When it comes to improving the health of Americans, this report shows that we need to think beyond the doctor's office, since much of what impacts are health happens in our communities, homes, offices, and schools.
“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America provides an essential set of recommendations for how to improve the health of Americans by providing the opportunity to be healthier - through improving education and housing, providing smoke-free environments, increasing access to healthy foods, and ensuring safe places to live, learn, work and play.
“People do not make decisions in a vacuum. They are influenced by the world around them. Enacting the Commission's recommendations will help make healthier choices easier choices for millions of Americans.
“TFAH joins the Commission in calling for more reliable data on health status, disparities, and the impact of where people live on their health to be able to give national, state, and local policymakers the information they need to make effective decisions. It is important that we understand how healthy communities are, where there are vulnerabilities, and be able to evaluate how effective strategies are for addressing gaps. We know that if the recommendations in this report were enacted, we could dramatically improve the health of Americans, and we know there are numerous evidence-based community-based disease prevention programs that can help reduce rates of disease and health care costs at the same time.
“The recent American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided a historic investment in community-based disease prevention. This was an important start - and an important down payment - for reducing health care costs over the long term. As President Obama said, this money will ‘keep millions of Americans from setting foot in the doctor's office in the first place.' Moving forward, to realize the full potential return of keeping people healthy, community-based disease prevention must become a centerpiece of health care reform."
Some key findings from their report:
How long and how well Americans live depends more on where they live, learn, work and play than on medical care, which accounts for only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of early deaths;
Some Americans can expect to die 20 years earlier than others just a few miles away because of differences in education, income, race or ethnicity and where and how they live, that on average;
Americans who graduate from college can expect to live five years longer than those who do not complete high school; and
People who are poor are more than three times as likelier as those who are affluent to suffer physical limitations from a chronic illness.
For more information about the Commission and for a copy of the Commission's report, Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America, go towww.commissionhealth.org
Report: Healthier America starts before doctor office visists (4/24)
April 24, 2009