Category Archives: National Prevention Strategy

Sep 11 2012

Jonathan Woodson, Department of Defense: National Prevention Strategy Series

Dr. Jonathan Woodson Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the Department of Defense

World Suicide Prevention Day, co-sponsored by the World Health Organization, promotes commitment and action to prevent suicides. Almost 3,000 people commit suicide every day, and for every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives. In the first five months of 2012, at least 155 military service members committed suicide—more than the number of service personnel killed in Afghanistan during the same time period.

As part of our National Prevention Strategy seriesNewPublicHealth spoke with Jonathan Woodson, MD, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the Department of Defense, about suicide prevention as well as the department’s overall approach to wellness and prevention for military, veterans and their families.

Listen to the podcast and read the full interview with Dr. Woodson below.

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Aug 28 2012

Better Education=Healthier Lives

The NewPublicHealth National Prevention Strategy series is underway, including interviews with Cabinet Secretaries and their National Prevention Council designees, exploring the impact of education, transportation and more on health. “Better Education = Healthier Lives” tells a visual story on the role of education in the health of our communities.

Also check out:


>>For more on education and health: Listen to our podcast interview with Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) and read our Q&A with Donald Yu, designee to the Prevention Council.

Aug 28 2012

Donald Yu of the Department of Education: National Prevention Strategy Q&A

Donald Yu Donald Yu (second from right), Department of Education, at a Green Ribbon ceremony with representatives of partner organizations

As the National Prevention Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth will be speaking with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about their prevention initiatives. Follow the series here.

We recently spoke with Donald Yu, Senior Counselor to the General Counsel of the U.S.Department of Education and designee to the National Prevention Council, about the connection between health and education.

>>Listen to a related podcast with the Secretary of the Department of Education, Arne Duncan.

NewPublicHealth: What is the connection between education, high school completion, employment and health?

Don Yu: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has always said that education is the civil rights issue of our generation, and that concept has really infused all of our work in all of our areas. In terms of the question about how health relates to education, high school completion and employment, I think it’s intuitive but also backed up by emerging research that there is a strong correlation between good student health and improved performance on academic assessments. Obviously, if students are hungry they cannot focus in class; much less perform on a test. Or if they can’t see well, can’t see the blackboard, they obviously can’t learn as well, and my point about the civil rights issue is that those kinds of health disparities impact low income and minority communities the most.

NPH: And what are some of the initiatives and innovations already underway at the Department of Education to support the National Prevention Strategy?

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Jul 19 2012

Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education: National Prevention Strategy Series

Arne Duncan Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education

The National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy offers a comprehensive plan to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. A cornerstone of the Strategy is that it recognizes that good health comes not just from quality medical care, but also from the conditions we face where we live, learn, work and play—such as healthy homes, clean water and air and safe worksites. The strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council, which is composed of 17 federal agencies including the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and others.

As the Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth will be speaking with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about their prevention initiatives. Follow the series here.

We spoke with Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, about the connection between health and education. Listen to the short podcast, and read the full interview below.

Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, speaks with NewPublicHealth in a podcast about the connection between health and education. The Department of Education is a member of the National Prevention Council. Why is health a priority for the Department?

Secretary Duncan: Very simply, if children aren’t healthy they can’t fulfill their academic and social potential. I always talk about the foundation of building blocks for great education, which includes good physical and emotional health. If children can’t see the blackboard they can’t do well. If children are hungry they can’t do well. If children are obese they are not going to do as well as they should. So we have to collectively make sure that children are physically and emotionally healthy so they can think about AP Chemistry and Biology and Physics and the rest of their learning.

NPH: What are the Department of Education’s key target areas and specific initiatives in implementing the National Prevention Strategy?

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Jun 18 2012

Andrew Rein: NewPublicHealth Q&A

Rein Andrew Rein, HHS designee on the National Prevention Council

Andrew Rein, MS, is the Associate Director for Policy for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the HHS designee on the National Prevention Council. NewPublicHealth spoke with him about the National Prevention Strategy Action Plan released earlier this week.

NewPublicHealth: What are the overarching goals of the National Prevention Strategy?

Andrew Rein: We not only want people to live longer, we want them to live healthier, too. And the way to get there is really to become a nation that focuses on wellness and prevention, not just sickness and disease. We want to prevent disease from happening in the first place. To do that, we work across sectors because that’s the best way to have a prevention-oriented society where people work, live, learn and play and prevention is “baked in.” So, working with non-profit, private, state, and other sectors, such as transportation, education, housing, we can really make our communities safe, our communities healthy, and focus on prevention.

NPH: What movement have you seen on prevention in the last year, and how does the Action Plan move that forward?

Andrew Rein: The Action Plan really brings the National Prevention Strategy to life. It presents federal actions that not only will make progress in their own right but also serve as examples to others who want to focus on prevention. In the last year, there’s already been some of that mobilization across the country as a result of the release of the strategy. San Diego and Chicago used the strategy when designing their prevention plans; a few state legislatures are considering legislation to create multi-sector prevention councils. So there really is support to move prevention forward in all sectors and the Action Plan tries to catapult that to the next level.

NPH: The strategy talks about the 17 agencies and offices that have a role in the National Prevention Council. What is the niche of the Department of Health and Human Services?

Andrew Rein: That’s a great question. First off, I just have to say how significant and wonderful it is that we can be asking that question. We can only ask that question because there are so many departments involved. Prevention, of course, is the core business for HHS, whether it is community prevention at the Centers for Disease Control or clinical prevention being supported by Health Resource Services Administration and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or the basic research at the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration in terms of safety. There’s so much that we do. On the National Prevention Council, we know the data on health, so that we can target our activities for leading causes of death, disease and disability, and share the evidence base and examples of what works to effectively address these problems.

NPH: What are some things that might have informed the Department of Health and Human Services in the last year from engagement with the other agencies?

Andrew Rein: I think the most significant piece for me has been to learn how much is already going on and what kind of commitment and expertise there is out there to improve the health of the American people. What the National Prevention Council has been able to do is share that expertise and align our activities. One of the most significant pieces has been to bring together a community of people within the federal government who want to work on these activities, have the charge of their leadership to move forward and just have been waiting for ways to do this in a more effective manner.

For example, the Department of Defense is very focused on prevention in terms of physical activity, obesity and tobacco control as just a few examples.

NPH: What are some of the critical prevention goals that all departments are focusing on? Some examples from the 2012 report were access to healthy foods and tobacco free environments.

Andrew Rein: There are over 200 council actions aligned with the strategic directives and priorities and much more is going on. The National Prevention Council came together and selected three common areas of commitment. One is to increase tobacco-free environments in their own facilities and voluntarily with their partners as appropriate. We know that tobacco still kills 440,000 people a year. So that’s a great shared commitment. We know tobacco-free environments work and help reduce tobacco-related illness and death. The council members also committed to increase access to healthy and affordable food in their own facilities and with their partners voluntarily as appropriate.

And third, they are continuing to consider additional opportunities for prevention and health within each department, and that means training their own staff, whether those staff are transportation planners or people in housing, for example, and saying well, how does prevention and health relate to the work I do?

So these three areas are ones that all 17 National Prevention Council departments have come together and committed to moving those forward, committed to assessing their current environment, making a plan for improvement, committing to leadership, communication on what that plan will be and the importance of these issues, and then moving forward in future years.

NPH: For many initiatives, many people might be surprised that departments other than HHS would be involved such as the Housing and Urban Development on Housing and Health. Are you seeing more examples of actions other sectors are taking to advance prevention?

Andrew Rein: We’ve seen many more examples of activity across sectors. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is a great example. Its work on smoke-free housing is wonderful. It has a great voluntary approach that’s had real impact. There are now 230 public housing authorities that have voluntarily adopted such policies for some or all of their buildings. And the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration are working on transforming their food environments, increasing access to healthy foods, sharing the information. The VA is even developing teaching kitchens for veterans in an effort to support healthy eating.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has a very prevention-oriented approach along with traditional interdiction measures, supporting measures such as screening, brief intervention, referral and treatment to curtail alcohol abuse.

>>Listen to our interview with ONDCP director, R. Gil Kerlikowse.

It has really been amazing to see fantastic examples across the 17 departments, and these are just some of the examples where all sectors are coming together. But we also see at the community level, people understanding that their health is not just in the doctor’s office; it’s when they walk outside and is it easy and safe to play? Do they have access to healthy foods? Are they focusing on prevention rather than treatment both in their clinical systems and in their communities? In their schools, how can they improve health? There is more awareness throughout communities in the country, not just in the public health community. We need to make healthy choices the easy choices, the default choices, and the National Prevention Strategy Action Plan is the way to do it, to bring everyone in.

Jun 14 2012

National Prevention Council Action Plan: Q&A with Mayra Alvarez

S. Mayra Alvarez Mayra Alvarez, HHS

The Surgeon General yesterday released the National Prevention Council Action Plan, which is the next step in the federal implementation of the National Prevention Strategy, released last year by the National Prevention Council. The Council is comprised of 17 federal departments and agencies. According to the office of the Surgeon General, the Action Plan complements prevention and wellness efforts already underway by the federal government, states, tribal and local governments, health care systems, businesses, communities, nonprofit organizations and other groups.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Mayra Alvarez, MPH, director of public health policy in the Office of Health Reform, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about the Action Plan’s release.

NPH: How does the National Prevention Strategy tie together efforts to create healthier communities?

Mayra Alvarez: The National Prevention Strategy really is the first-ever national blueprint for improving the health of all Americans. What we’re trying to do is move our system from a focus on sickness or disease to one that concentrates on wellness and prevention. The Action Plan specifically talks about what steps the federal government is taking to implement the Strategy, but it also identifies opportunities for cross-sector collaboration between us, the federal government, as well as businesses, state and local governments, schools, health systems, community groups and people themselves to promote healthier communities. We know that health is impacted by where we learn, live, work, play and pray and really the best strategy to promote healthy communities is those that focus on all aspects of people’s lives. It’s really a both ends approach, when it comes to promoting the health and well being of Americans.

When we think about what a healthy community looks like, we know we want communities that promote the health of Americans. The National Prevention Strategy allowed us to hone in on what that is supposed to look like by outlining important strategic directions, such as:

  • How do we make sure we have safe community environments so our kids can play outside and know that it is safe for them to do so?
  • How do we ensure access to clinical and community services so Americans are aware of what services are recommended for them, and they can be on top of their health status?
  • How do we make sure we have empowered people who have the information they need to make healthy choices?
  • And how do we focus on eliminating health disparities, so that we’re improving the quality of life for all Americans?

Those are strategic directions, and now we’re excited that the Action Plan is outlining the items that the federal government is pursuing to implement the National Prevention Strategy.

NewPublicHealth: What new initiatives are described in the Action Plan, and how do they build on the cross-sector collaboration framework established by the National Prevention Council?

Mayra Alvarez: The release of the National Prevention Council Action plan is an opportunity to promote the prevention and well being of Americans’ health across the country. The Action Plan defines over 200 steps that all seventeen federal departments that comprise the National Prevention Council are taking to help make our society healthier.

Each of the departments are committing to certain action items to implement the National Prevention Strategy to insure that prevention is a part of their programs and policies, now and in the future. But in addition to the 200 individual department actions, we are announcing a new commitment to three over-arching areas:

  • Increasing tobacco-free environments
  • Increasing access to healthy, affordable foods
  • Finding opportunities within the departments to incorporate prevention and health

These three overarching goals really will target the leading causes of death and ensure that our policies and programs are promoting the health and well being of Americans.

NPH: How can communities and health organizations reach out to other stakeholders in transportation, housing, education and other areas to form the kind of broad-based coalitions and partnerships needed to implement the National Prevention Strategy?

Mayra Alvarez: Cross-sector collaboration and partnerships are so important. We’ve made clear that it’s not a federal strategy, it‘s a national strategy, and as such really does incorporate the responsibilities that fall to the federal government as well as to our partners on the ground—states, communities, religious institutions, schools and community groups—organizations that really impact the health and well being of Americans on a day to day basis.

When we talk about looking for opportunities to non-traditional but very important players in health and wellness, such as transportation, housing, education and business, we need to really figure out how they can draw the links to health and well being. One opportunity is our investment in workplace wellness programs. Americans spend hours at their workplace, and a growing number of corporations are prioritizing the health and well being of their workers.

Not only is it an investment in the wellbeing of their workforce, it’s also an investment in economic well being of their business. And we’re trying to make that a reality by providing resources on the ground to businesses across the country. The Department of Labor for example, is training more than 1.5 million workers on preventing health hazards in the workplace.

Engagement is widespread. Each of the departments that make up the National Prevention Council is reaching out to various sectors to prioritize prevention and health because when it comes to the health and well of Americans, it’s not just the responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services, but of all of us.

Jun 13 2012

National Prevention Resources: Starter Guide

Now more than ever, it’s critical to focus on prevention. To help people live longer and healthier lives, we need to focus on where health begins – where we live, learn, work and play.

This week marks the anniversary of the National Prevention Strategy, a national effort that is engaging 17 federal agencies to develop cross-sector strategies to reduce preventable illness and disease and improve Americans' health. The Strategy 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 in a collaborative effort to create healthier communities.

>>See some examples of how communities are making a difference in an essay from Risa Lavizzo-Mourey in The Atlantic.

As the Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth is hosting a series of content including interviews with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about their strategies to address the many factors that influence our health – from housing and education, to transportation, clean water and air, safe worksites and access to healthy foods. As every sector has a role to play, we are also gathering reports, toolkits, and other resources to provide direction on how different fields can work together and take action. Let us know in the comments if you have more resources to share!


Prevention and Cost Savings

Built Environment

Social and Economic Environment


Jun 13 2012

Jeffrey Levi Q&A: Check in on the National Prevention Strategy

Jeff Levy Jeffrey Levi

As we near the anniversary of the National Prevention Strategy, and the one-year status update and Action Plan are released, NewPublicHealth spoke with Jeffrey Levi, chair of the National Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health about the Strategy and the overall approach to prevention.

NewPublicHealth: What are the goals and successes of the National Prevention Strategy (NPS)?

Jeffrey Levi: For the first time ever, 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 “increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.”

As the strategy is implemented, it will become apparent to agencies and sectors that, in reality, health is an important part of their core mission. For instance, it’s clear that for, an education system to be successful, students must leave school healthy, which is accomplished through exercise, health education and access to healthier foods. However, research has continually demonstrated that healthier students also do better in school. Consequently, ensuring students are healthy ensures they are able to achieve at higher levels.

Prevention also has become an important aspect of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) work, as they begin to focus on smoke-free environments and overhaul food choices on bases. For example, Fort Benning, in Georgia, has replaced traditional meals, such as pizza and donuts, with more nutritious, lower-calorie foods, such as fruits and whole grains. The base also has developed a labeling system to help soldiers make healthier choices. When thinking about health, the DOD has begun to go beyond what happens in the health care system to include the environment, community and built environment.

Consequently, 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.

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 Action 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.

NPH: What are the challenges you see?

Jeffrey Levi: For this to really work, it can’t just be a top down effort; it has to be a part of the culture of these agencies, and part of the culture of the constituent groups.

In addition, the advisory group and every sector must keep the heat on the agencies to deliver on the great promise of the Strategy and Action Plan.

NPH: What is the best chance for the Strategy to be long lasting?

Jeffrey Levi: The Strategy is about leveraging existing resources and focusing them in a different way. For example, as we build schools or highways or develop communities, we need to intentionally think about the potential health benefits of the action.

If we understand the health impacts of a decision, we’ll see results. Just as the education system knows that healthier kids do better, commerce departments will recognize that access to healthy foods and safe places to exercise will create a healthier and more productive workforce and also attract more businesses. Once each agency firmly understands that health will improve the bottom line, we’ll begin to see real momentum.

>>Follow the rest of the National Prevention Strategy series on NewPublicHealth.

Jun 13 2012

National Prevention Strategy Series: Estelle Richman, Department of Housing and Urban Development

Estelle Richman Estelle Richman, Department of Housing and Urban Development

The National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy offers a comprehensive plan to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. A cornerstone of the Strategy is that it recognizes that good health comes not just from quality medical care, but also from the conditions we face where we live, learn, work and play—such as healthy homes, clean water and air and safe worksites. The strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council, which is composed of 17 federal agencies including the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and others.

As the Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth will be speaking with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about their prevention initiatives. Follow the series here.

This week, NewPublicHealth spoke with Estelle Richman, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

NewPublicHealth: Why was it important for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to be involved in the development of National Prevention Strategy?

Estelle Richman: HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and affordable housing for everyone. HUD is more than bricks and mortar. We need to get away from thinking that housing is just about putting a roof over your head. It’s your home, and your family’s health and safety and your children’s education are all dependent on where that home is. HUD views housing as a platform for improving a wide range of outcomes.

That’s what makes HUD dovetail perfectly with the National Prevention Strategy; the whole concept of affordability of housing and the quality of neighborhoods and the understanding of that influence on health. HUD invests about $50 billion annually on affordable housing and community development and these investments impact health. We don’t do it alone and none of our partners can do it alone. But together we can bring significant experience and expertise to the table so that we can truly mitigate and help prevent health hazards.

NPH: What approach is HUD taking to address the challenges of health related to housing?

Estelle Richman: One of the most obvious places where we make a substantial difference is the physical environment of housing, including a focus on lead-based paint hazards, mold and pests and all the many things that contribute to respiratory disease, allergies and other illnesses.

Another factor not always immediately connected is housing affordability and health. Many households are now paying more than 60 percent of their income in order to remain in their homes. And if you’re paying a huge amount of your income just to pay your rent or your mortgage, then you’re cutting something else—such as food, health care, medicine and transportation. That puts people at risk for both physical and mental health problems. Children in families that have been behind on rent are more likely to be in poor health, have increased risk of developmental delays and suffer from food insecurity than children whose families are stably housed.

NPH: What are some of HUD’s key initiatives in helping to foster sustainable, healthy communities?

Estelle Richman: We know that physical and mental health depends on sustainable and economically vital neighborhoods where we have access to transportation, good schools, safe places for children to play and places to go shopping for healthy and wholesome foods.

HUD’s Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Program has shown that moving to better neighborhood environments is associated with improved mental and physical health for adults, lower rates of extreme obesity, lower rates of diabetes, less psychological stress and less major depression for adult women. So being able to stabilize where you live and the quality of your housing can make a difference.

We’re trying to reach some of these same goals through our Choice Neighborhoods Program, which is part of a partnership between HUD, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Treasury. Choice Neighborhoods actually builds on the success of Hope VI, which was begun in the 1990s and was set up to transform some of the worst public housing by developing mixed-income communities. In Philadelphia, for example, when they were able to switch to Hope VI, you saw a distinctive change in those neighborhoods. Schools got better, neighborhood stores moved in, transportation became more accessible. When we talk about Choice Neighborhoods now, we consider employment assets, quality education, and a wider range of stakeholders, including nonprofits, private firms, local government and public housing authorities.

NPH: What changes can be made to housing and home standards to help improve home and neighborhood safety?

Estelle Richman: We believe the home environment is a major influence on health and well-being and that threats to housing quality include everything from excess moisture, mold, allergens, and poor indoor air quality, to structural deficiencies and lead contamination.

NPH: And what is the approach to minimizing risks such as lead poising from lead-based paint?

Estelle Richman: Our Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control is looking at this. We know that housing that was built before 1978 may have lead-based paint, with homes built before 1940 having the highest levels of lead in paint. So it really doesn’t matter if you make a million dollars—if you’re living in a house built before 1978, the odds that there’s lead somewhere in that house is high enough that everyone needs to be concerned about their children. So the standard has to be set high enough that we protect everyone.

NPH: What is HUD doing in the area of secondhand smoke in homes and who are your partners?

Estelle Richman: That is a big agenda items for many divisions of the Department.

Our partners in this are the Housing Authorities, some of the landlords, and just about anyone else who’ll talk to us. My best example of this is the Boston Housing Authority, which is on track to now to implement a total smoke-free policy this fall. They found that their asthma rates were twice as high as those for residents living in non-subsidized housing. They have done a lot of work over the last several years educating themselves, their clients, and offering folks as much support as possible to stop smoking, and now they’re ready to implement a smoke-free policy.

There are several other cities that have announced that they are looking at instituting smoke-free policies—San Antonio, Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon and all of the housing authorities in the State of Maine are among them. We’re offering whatever technical assistance we can to help them do it. We’re working in partnership with HHS, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Lung Association and trying to gather many other community supporters.

As we push, I think we will always find folks who believe that they want to continue to smoke, but we’re also finding that there are many people who are ready for smoke-free policies in their housing.

NPH: What are some current efforts of working across sectors to improve housing and better health in that housing?

Estelle Richman: Our Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Demonstration Program is a rental demonstration program to provide housing for people who have disabilities. It provides $85 million in funding to state housing agencies and other appropriate entities to provide long-term housing rental assistance for approximately 2,800 people. Many of these folks will have physical disabilities and will often need assistant care or assistive technology in order to live in the housing, which means that most of them will also be involved with the state Medicaid Agency, as well as their state Health and Human Services Agency.

To develop the program we worked hand in hand with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. I can’t tell you the number of positive emails I received. People were anxiously awaiting it. It is fully integrated with non-disabled populations, which was critical to the disabled community. To be a part of the program, a state housing agency must partner with the state Medicaid agency to submit a grant. So this is a true partnership. It’s integrated housing, it’s supportive housing and it helps get people out of institutions.

NPH: What are examples of partnerships you have within the Federal government?

Estelle Richman: We meet with our partners at HHS every week. We talk about our joint projects and about projects that we would like to work on together. We’re also a very strong partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You may know that we’re working with the VA around eliminating veterans' homelessness by 2015. There is also an HHS part of it so that we can know that our veterans who are coming home not only have good health care, but they also have a place to live. As I’ve said, we all have to have partners and it is, in essence, the core of that partnership that helps us make progress. The National Prevention Council has actually brought these partners together and I credit them for being part of what keeps us working together. It’s very easy in some of these very large bureaucracies to drift off and do your own mission and I think one of the things the National Prevention Council does is help us all realize that we all share prevention, we all work on it together.

NPH: What are some of the other critical partners in communities?

Estelle Richman: In any level of government, the level you need to get to is the level of where the people are. So you need to get down to neighborhoods, you need to get to communities and when you go down in communities, you really need to talk to your hospital and health care systems, community neighborhood groups, schools and PTAs. Also what rises to the top of the page real quickly is transportation. If you have not figured out how to get transportation as a partner then you’re going to have a hard time getting prevention, promotion and health care to work outside the city center.

Each community is different. You need to talk to the folks and get a feel for what’s going to make a difference in that particular community.

NPH: Tell us about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Estelle Richman: It is a multi-partner collaboration among HUD, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. These two agencies have not always been traditional partners for HUD. Through the Partnership, we are coordinating federal housing, transportation, and environmental investments and looking at things like water infrastructure, roads, sidewalks, transit lines, and job creation opportunities as all of those things are necessary for a healthy and vibrant community life. Several of the Sustainable Communities grant recipients are partnering with the public health sector, including in conducting health impact assessments, increasing access to fresh foods, and encouraging active living that includes opportunities for exercise in one's daily commute and routine. They’re realizing that to improve public health, it’s critical to actually support and create the communities that are not only going to be economically sustainable, but that also maximize environmental, energy-efficient and socially sustainable design and development strategies.

NPH: What had the National Prevention Council brought to the table that was not there before?

Estelle Richman: When you have an initiative like the National Prevention Council, you set goals, you set measurable outcomes and you also have skin in the game of what the big group is doing. You’re held accountable, but you’re asking to be held accountable. And it’s not accountable to your silo, it’s accountable to the larger group.

And I think it’s that choice of accountability to the larger group for health care that affects all of us. The concern about health care is not an issue just for struggling families or folks in foreclosure or families that are in the lower incomes. Health care is something we are all concerned about. In the end, it holds us all accountable for better communities.

>>Catch up on the rest of the National Prevention Strategy series on NewPublicHealth.

Jun 8 2012

Twitter Q&A: Making #Prevention A Priority

To mark the anniversary of the National Prevention Strategy, Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America's Health and chair of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, will be taking questions via Twitter on June 13, 2012, at 3:30 p.m. EST.

The Q&A will be focusing on why prevention is so critical, who are the partners and sectors that need to be at the table and what's next for the Prevention Strategy.

Submit your questions to: @RWJF_PubHealth or @HealthyAmerica1 and make sure to use the hashtag #preventionchat. And you can follow the conversation at this link, or below.