Without urgent action taken by all sectors of society to help improve the health of Americans, children could live sicker, shorter lives than their parents, a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Commission to Build a Healthier America finds.
The report, Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America (111 pages, PDF), found that how long and how well Americans live depends more on where individuals live, learn, work, and play than on their medical care, which accounts for only an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of preventable early deaths. What's more, Americans overall are not nearly as healthy as they should be, regardless of where they live, their income, education, or racial or ethnic group.
The report argued that the health of Americans will not improve unless individuals do more to incorporate health into all aspects of their everyday life and unless leaders do more in their decision making to support healthier decisions in everything from education and child care to community planning and business practices. Recommendations in the report included ensuring that all children have access to high-quality education and child care; using federal funds to provide only healthy, nutritious food in schools; providing at least thirty minutes of physical activity a day for every child in school; and creating public-private partnerships to open grocery stores in communities without access to healthy food.
"For too long we have focused on medical care as the solution to our health problems, when the evidence tells us the opposite," said RWJF president and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "We must make it possible for more people to make healthy decisions and avoid getting sick in the first place. The commission has provided us with a principled, sensible, and experience-driven blueprint. We cannot afford to wait to implement these recommendations."