An Overview of Programs and Initiatives Sponsored by DHHS to Promote Healthy Aging: A Background Paper for the Blueprint on Aging for the 21st Century Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Meeting. PURPOSE AND FOCUS OF THE HEALTH PROMOTION AND AGING PROJECT


In the next 30 years, one of five people in this country will be over the age of 65. Many older people are in good health and leading active lives in the community. However, a significant number of older Americans will have chronic illnesses and disabilities that limit their ability to fully participate in everyday activities. While projects have sought to examine the effectiveness of health promotion and disease prevention interventions for older persons, there is an enormous unrealized potential of larger public health strategies to promote healthy aging.

The last comprehensive attempt to synthesize the scientific knowledge and expertise about health promotion activities in aging populations was undertaken in 1984, when the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) launched a major initiative to encourage the public and private sector--at all levels--national, regional, state, and local--to work together on promoting the health of older persons. This initiative culminated with the Surgeon General's "Workshop on Health Promotion and Aging" in the spring of 1988.

Since that time, new scientific breakthroughs in medical care, new pharmaceuticals, the growing field of geriatric practitioners, aging-related research studies, and the "active aging" paradigm have caused us to reconsider how the public health community can best provide research, support, and services that will allow older adults to live well and remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) has launched the Health Promotion and Aging Project in order to provide DHHS with a series of health promotion and aging messages; consolidate work being conducted by the Research Coordination Council (an interagency research council charged with preventing duplication in research and encouraging coordination); and advance its knowledge of health promotion and disease prevention programs initiated since the publication of the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on Older Americans' Call to Health.

The goals of the Health Promotion and Aging project are threefold:

  1. describe health promotion, disease prevention, and health education activities aimed at older persons, highlighting the range of these activities throughout DHHS;

  2. identify gaps in research, evaluation, and health promotion/disease prevention activities that can be undertaken to enhance health promotion and disease prevention programs for older persons; and

  3. assemble a broad coalition of federal, state, and local public health experts to advise and prioritize and recommend health promotion activities for health promotion and disease prevention activities for older Americans.

To achieve these goals, we will carry out the following activities:

  1. develop a background paper that identifies health promotion, disease prevention, and health education activities for older persons that have been undertaken by DHHS and a few of its public and private partners (the focus of this document);

  2. convene a technical advisory group (TAG) to identify overarching priorities for health promotion and disease prevention activities for older persons in the future, and help identify and structure how best to use a series of technical expert panels (TEPs) to arrive at a series of recommendations and possible alternative suggestions;

  3. commission a series of papers on topics the TAG group recommends and that will help focus the discussion at the TEP meetings;

  4. convene a series of expert meetings to debate, discuss, and begin to prioritize key issues and suggestions for health promotion and disease prevention among older persons in the future; and

  5. develop and publish a monograph that summarizes and prioritizes the information obtained from the TAG and TEP meetings and that includes suggestions for future health promotion and disease prevention activities for older Americans. The monograph will consider both short-term and long-term implementation timeframes, and distinctions between public and private activities.

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