Today, the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council released the nation’s first ever comprehensive action plan for improving the health of all Americans, the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been working on prevention and public health since our inception 40 years ago, and we believe this national action strategy sets a course that will help our nation become healthier and more competitive in a global economy by reducing the burden of health care costs and reducing preventable disease and illness.
This country spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year to treat preventable illnesses, diseases and injuries. Preventing them in the first place is the most cost-effective, common-sense way to improve health, and doing so provides a significant return on investment.
We know that health isn’t just about what happens at the doctor’s office. Where we live, learn, work and play has a huge impact on our health. That’s why it’s encouraging to see that the Strategy directly addresses the connection between social factors and health such as poor housing, poor education and poverty. And the Strategy outlines specific program and policy actions that can be undertaken in our homes, schools, businesses and other community institutions to prevent disease, promote health and control costs, such as strengthening early childhood education, promoting affordable access to healthier foods or enacting smoke-free laws.
We are also pleased to see that the Strategy addresses the elimination of health disparities. Persistent differences in disease and injury rates based on race, ethnicity and other factors are particularly troubling, and strategies that work across communities to address education, housing, transportation, and other areas will be vital to closing these gaps.
Moving forward, the National Prevention Strategy should include an even stronger commitment to research and data that demonstrate both the health and economic benefits of prevention particularly for policies and programs outside the clinical setting—building on the strength of evidence for policies that prevent smoking, increase physical activity and improve healthy eating.
The National Prevention Strategy should also be well-coordinated and connected to the local, state and national efforts to improve the quality of health care that are outlined in the National Strategy for Quality Improvement. Together these two strategies set the path for improving America’s health. We must focus on both prevention and the quality of health care to improve the health of our nation. Health is everyone’s responsibility. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will work hand in hand with businesses and employers, health care providers and insurers, educators, philanthropy, community and faith-based organizations, families and individuals—to turn these important recommendations into programs and policies to make our nation healthier.