Idea Gallery: Ensuring "Health in all Policies"

May 5, 2011, 8:29 PM, Posted by

“Health in all policies” has become a sort of shorthand for the public health community. Well, sometimes, longhand is better. That is especially true in the an issue of Health Affairs, which focuses on the connection between environment and health.

The incredibly thorough and important studies included in the publication demonstrate how health can be affected by things ranging from transportation law to education policy.

One of the most fascinating parts of the issue is Protecting Health And Pocketbooks: Why Behavioral And Environmental Interventions Are Needed To Improve Health At Lower Cost, by Bobby Milstein at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues. According to their analysis, environmental health policy plays a critical role in improving the cost-effectiveness of the U.S. health care system. The authors argue that, to improve the health of Americans for generations to come, we need to “invest in prevention initiatives that extend beyond the doctor’s office.”

Luckily enough, the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), gives us the opportunity to do just that by fighting obesity, reducing smoking and improving health where we live, learn, work and play. In short, it will make the healthy choices easier choices and, thereby, prevent suffering and save lives and money.

For example, in prevention programs supported by Community Transformation Grants from the Prevention Fund, communities will be given the support to create healthier environments – whether by promoting clean air, or assuring access to physical activity, or healthier food choices. We will have more community support and programs available to help make healthy choices easier choices for more Americans.

The Prevention fund is an important step toward transforming our sick care system into a health care system by ensuring all policies, focus on how they impact the public’s health.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.