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ASPE.hhs.gov Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation

Office of the Assistant Secretary
for Planning and Evaluation

Office of Health Policy

OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACTION

During his tenure, Secretary Thompson has hosted many roundtable discussions and listening sessions with different stakeholders and interested parties.  Drawing on these meetings,  research and other information, this section suggests actions that specific stakeholders can take to promote health and prevent chronic disease in all Americans.  These steps are not meant to be prescriptive but rather to identify starting points for individuals, families, communities and other interested constituencies as they begin to work for better health and wellness.

Action Steps for Individuals and Families

Individuals and families are the heart of healthy communities and provide the foundation for a strong and vibrant America.  Individuals and families must adopt healthy habits and assume responsibility for living a healthy lifestyle.

Action Steps for Communities

Communities are the cornerstones for promoting healthy behaviors of their residents.  Partnerships within and among local private sector constituencies and stakeholders can promote and reinforce healthy habits and environments for individuals and families.

Action Steps for Schools

Schools are an especially critical site for encouraging healthy behaviors in youth.  Most children spend a large portion of their time in school.  In many cases, life-long habits and behaviors, good and bad, are formed during the elementary and middle school years.  Schools, therefore, offer an opportunity to engage children in healthy eating and regular physical activity and to reinforce important health messages including those regarding avoidance of risky behaviors.  Schools can also provide a bridge to eliciting parental involvement in shaping children’s habits and attitudes about healthy lifestyle choices.

Action Steps for Employers

Working adults spend many of their waking hours at their worksite.   Thus, the worksite is an important and convenient environment in which to foster healthier habits.  Moreover, companies are beginning to recognize that the health of the individual employee is inseparable from the ‘health’ of the corporation.  Employees with chronic diseases and/or conditions, which may be prevented or attenuated by diet and exercise, often have higher rates of absenteeism and health care usage than healthy employees without chronic ailments.  Thus, worksite programs designed to promote health and prevent chronic disease are a wise investment for employers.

Action Steps for Health Insurers

Health insurers can play a significant role in promoting health and preventing or lessening the consequences of chronic diseases and conditions for individuals.  Insurers can design and offer innovative and comprehensive preventative services benefit packages based on scientific evidence.  In addition, insurers can disseminate educational information about the importance of prevention to their customers/consumers.

Action Steps for Health Care Providers and Professionals

Health care providers/professionals are key for promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing the impact of chronic diseases and conditions.  In any year, most Americans will interact with the health care system.  Thus, health care providers are strategically poised to intervene and influence individuals to adopt healthy behaviors.  Health care professionals can also provide critical leadership to communities, state and local governments, schools and other interested stakeholders to guide and catalyze health promotion and disease prevention efforts.

Action Steps for Researchers and Health Professions Educators

Progress in health promotion and disease prevention necessarily depends on continued research and knowledge generation and dissemination.  Therefore, researchers and health professions educators are critical in furthering our understanding of the etiology of chronic conditions such as obesity and effective approaches for prevention and treatment of these conditions.  In addition, successful health promotion and disease prevention requires translation and dissemination of scientific findings into effective clinical practices to reach all individuals.

Action Steps for Media

The power of the media should be harnessed to educate the public by disseminating health information and to promote effective strategies to improve dietary and exercise habits.

Action Steps for State, Local, and Tribal Governments

State, local, and tribal governments can play a key role in coordinating an approach to encourage healthy habits and prevent chronic diseases.  State, local and tribal governments can partner with, and provide guidance to, other organizations and entities to facilitate health promotion initiatives.  They can also act as a bridge between Federal programs and community activities providing the necessary infrastructure and support needed to maximize and coordinate efforts among stakeholders.  In addition, state, local, and tribal governments can create and implement policies that encourage healthy behaviors. 

Action Steps for HHS/Overweight and Obesity

HHS has a large number of current initiatives and programs underway to address obesity and overweight.  They include programs in education, communication and outreach, intervention, diet and nutrition, physical activity and fitness, disease surveillance, research, clinical preventive services and therapeutics, and policy and web-based tools.  The programs are targeted to a variety of populations including infants and breastfeeding mothers, children and adolescents, women, minorities, the elderly, the disabled, rural, and the general population.  Additional areas to target initiatives may include:

Action Steps for HHS/Diabetes

HHS agencies are pursuing vigorous programs in prevention that include basic research, clinical trials, community health efforts, educational programs, translating research into practice, efforts in special populations, and providing a new Medicare benefit for diabetes testing. Through these comprehensive programs, HHS agencies are continuing to pursue prevention studies to optimize and identify additional intervention strategies. HHS also is improving methods to disseminate and implement effective strategies into diverse community settings. Particular opportunities for HHS action involve underserved or vulnerable populations and include:

Action Steps for HHS/Tobacco

Prevention of the ill effects of tobacco is an essential part of the HHS mission, and HHS is committed to working in a coordinated, comprehensive, and effective manner to protect the public’s health from the harmful effects of tobacco use.  In 2000, HHS launched a roadmap for improving the health of all people in the U.S. during the first decade of the 21st century, including objectives for reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco use.  In addition, the Secretary’s Steps to a HealthierUS has as one of its major components avoiding risky behaviors, such as using tobacco products, to promote good health and save lives.  There are many opportunities for strategic collaboration among agencies to further reduce the health and economic impact of tobacco-related diseases.

Action Steps for HHS/ Media and Messages

HHS has a vast number of individual initiatives, products and messages designed to promote healthy behaviors and reduce illness and disability, such as the national nutrition program, 5 A Day for Better Health Program, the Small Steps program, and its accompanying advertising campaign (Healthy Lifestyles and Disease Prevention), which encourages American families to take small, manageable steps to ensure effective, long-term weight control.

Action Steps for HHS/Health Literacy

Health literacy and messaging are important aspects of HHS research and program activities focusing on prevention.  The Department’s agencies are engaged in a variety of health literacy activities.  HHS agencies are beginning to include health literacy as a consideration in their research, assessment, training, program operations, and communication with the public, but there are opportunities for improvement. 

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