Research Conducted to Raise Public Awareness and Support for a National Movement to Improve the Health of All Americans

Planning for a national dialogue on the nonmedical determinants of health

In order to find ways to raise awareness among the American public of the importance of non-medical determinants of health and well-being, RWJFinitiated research and planning in 2001 through an internal authorization of funds.

These funds supported the engagement of consultants (primarily Pyramid Communications of Seattle), between 2001 and 2002, in a three-phase effort to research the potential for a national dialogue and other strategies that might help improve the health of all Americans and to develop strategic options for meeting this goal.

The objectives of the three phases were:

  • Phase I: To determine whether a national health movement is possible and what strategies could be used to develop one.
  • Phase II: To understand how to increase activity and healthy eating among children in schools and to develop a set of strategic options.
  • Phase III: To further develop, modify and refine strategic options and established budgets for recommended options.

Key Findings

  • Phases I findings included:

    • There is wide agreement on the major determinants of health.
    • People know what is good for them and what is not.
    • Attitude is an important indicator of health.
  • Phases I recommendations included:

    • Focus on diet and fitness.
    • Focus the strategic plan on a population like children in public schools.
    • Focus the strategic plan on populations at highest risk.
  • Phase II findings included:

    • Schoolteachers are out of shape and overweight.
    • Only 29 percent of high school students attend daily physical education classes.
    • Twenty-five percent of children are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.
  • Phase II recommendations included:

    • Unite disconnected efforts under one umbrella organization.
    • Create an organization that leads improvement efforts at the national level and form a network of partnerships.
    • Pass a national mandate for 30 minutes of physical activity each day for every child.

Key Conclusions

At the conclusion of Phase III, project staff offered four strategic options to RWJF for making decisions about what to do to improve the health of all Americans, particularly the physical fitness and healthy eating of children.

  • A campaign for healthy schools to develop a physically fit generation of children with lifelong healthy habits.

  • A school lunch campaign to improve the healthfulness of foods available in the nation's schools.

  • A campaign targeted at teachers based on the idea that healthy teachers will help children be physically active and eat healthfully.

  • A children's health movement that would include formation of a coalition of children's health organizations devoted to:

    • Non-medical determinants of health.
    • Development of a health education curriculum.
    • Inclusion of health academic standards in state and federal education standards.
    • Raising public awareness about the impact of unhealthy behavior choices.