Beyond the Affordable Care Act

Achieving Real Improvements in Americans' Health

Year in Research Nominee for 2010

Improved access to health care is essential if we are to fill the striking gaps between how healthy Americans are and how healthy they could be. But access alone is not enough. Health and longevity are also profoundly influenced by where and how Americans live, learn, work, and play.

Recognizing this, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America has identified concrete, feasible actions outside of medical care that constitute an urgent agenda for improving America’s health. These recommendations require action at all levels of society to promote development and health in childhood, good nutrition, and communities conducive to good health.

Key Findings:

  • More than 44 million Americans will have diabetes within 25 years under current trends and the annual cost of caring for them will triple to $336 billion.
  • College graduates can expect to live five years longer than those who don't complete high school; if all Americans enjoyed the same good health as college graduates, the national economy would achieve an annual average savings of $1 trillion. Longer and healthier lives would result in higher workforce productivity, reductions in expenditures on social programs and increases in tax revenues.

This article calls on private-sector leaders, governments and individuals to look beyond the recent health insurance reform debate and help all Americans live healthier lives in the first place by creating healthier homes, schools, workplaces and communities.