By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Cross-posted from HealthCare.gov
There’s nothing more important than health. It’s what allows us to do our jobs, spend time with friends, and watch our children grow old. For America, the health of our citizens is the foundation of our prosperity. Healthy adults are more productive workers. Healthy children are better students. Healthy families can make longer-lasting contributions to their communities.
We know there’s more to good health than going to the hospital when you get sick. Good health starts with steps we can all take to avoid getting sick in the first place, from getting regular check-ups, vaccinations, and recommended screenings, to eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise.
In the past, our health care system functioned more like a sick care system. Even though seven of ten deaths in America and three quarters of our nation’s health expenditures are due to chronic diseases, we were investing only 4 cents of every health care dollar in prevention – the kind of care to keep people from getting diseases in the first place.
That is changing under the Obama Administration, and this June, we are marking our nation’s first-ever Prevention and Wellness Month. Over the next month, you can look forward to announcements, activities, and tips that will help you and your family get healthy and stay healthy.
For example, Americans now have new health benefits thanks to the health care law President Obama signed last year. Millions of people can now get cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies, as well as vaccinations and counseling for chronic conditions like obesity, smoking, and depression, at no additional cost. And Medicare beneficiaries can now have a yearly health checkup with their doctor to develop and update a personalized wellness plan without having to pay anything out of pocket.
People want to make healthy eating choices for themselves and their families, so we’re putting more information in their hands. For example, we’re working with the food industry so that restaurants make their menu items easier to understand for health-conscious diners, and we’re working with food producers to improve and standardize nutrition labeling on the front and back of the package.
Everyone has a role to play in shaping America’s health. The good news is that communities across America have already been leading the way. Neighbors are planting community gardens, parents are organizing after-school programs, and local advocates are building new park trails. A big part of our health strategy is simply supporting these communities and sharing their ideas, so that they can become role models for the rest of the country.
And we know there are more good ideas out there, which is why we’ll also be asking you to share your own health and wellness tips this month. Tell us how you are contributing to a healthier future by leaving a comment on our Facebook page or by sending a tweet to @HealthCareGov with the hashtag #prevention. We’ll feature some of your ideas on our blog and social media websites to help inspire others.
In the end, we’re all responsible for our own health. But we know that when we work together to make healthy choices easier and more affordable, everyone benefits. So during Prevention and Wellness Month, you’ll also learn about business initiatives that help make the workplace a healthier environment. And you’ll hear about how we’re working across government to make health a priority in everything from transportation to housing policy.
Across the country, Americans are taking on today’s health challenges in exciting, innovative ways that recognize the value of preventing health problems before they occur. If we can build on and expand these prevention and wellness efforts, the payoff won’t just fewer health problems. It will be longer, richer lives to share with your friends and family, and a stronger, more prosperous, and a more competitive nation for all of us.