A Healthier America: Strategies to Move from Sick Care to Health Care in Four Years Executive Summary

Jan 29, 2013
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Every American should have the opportunity to be as healthy as he or she can be. Every community should be safe from threats to its health. And, all individuals and families should have a high level of services that protect and support their health, regardless of who they are or where they live. But, right now, millions of Americans suffer from diseases that could have been prevented:  Chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths, 75 percent of the $2.5 trillion spent on U.S. medical care costs and billions of dollars in lost productivity each year. Infectious diseases, from the antibiotic-resistant Superbugs to Salmonella to the seasonal flu, disrupt lives and communities and result in more than $120 billion in direct costs and enormous indirect costs. While the numbers are shocking, they are not surprising. For decades, the health care system has been set up to treat people after they are sick rather than keeping them well in the first place. Our country has a sick care system, rather than a health care system. In fact, today's children are on track to be the first generation in American history to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents. Right now, more than half of Americans are living with one or more serious, chronic disease, ranging from type 2 diabetes to cancer. Those rates are expected to increase significantly over the next two decades, particularly due to the obesity epidemic. America's health faces two possible futures. We can continue on the same track and resign millions of Americans to major health problems that could have been avoided, or we can invest in giving Americans the opportunity to be healthier while saving billions in health care costs and improving productivity. Despite the fact that prevention is the most effective, common-sense way to improve health and reduce health care costs in the United States, there has never been a strong national focus on prevention to deliver the results the country needs to prosper and thrive. Effective, affordable health care is essential for improving health, but what happens beyond the doctor's office also has a major impact on how healthy we are. There is increasing understanding of how important it is to combine good medical care with support in our daily lives. Where we live, learn, work and play all make a difference - for better or worse. Nutritious school lunches, affordable healthy foods, safe places to live, convenient places to exercise, clean air and water and a range of other things contribute to how healthy we are. In fact, where you live can dramatically increase your chance of living a longer, healthier life, in some cases by as much as 13 years. Good health requires that we all take individual responsibility for ourselves and our families, but not everyone has the same opportunities to make healthy choices. Leadership across the country can help promote greater opportunities for all Americans to live healthy and productive lives.