Getting Healthy: Looking Beyond Health Care

Friday, May 15, 2009

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ALLIANCE FOR HEALTH REFORM

Where we live, learn, work and play can have an enormous influence on our health and well being.

Yet millions of working men and women and their families face almost insurmountable barriers to better health on a daily basis.

Many of these hurdles can't be cleared simply by choosing a healthy path. For example, many inner city and rural families have virtually no access to healthful foods. Many neighborhoods are unsafe for walking, let alone exercise. Children who do not receive high-quality services and education run a higher risk of becoming less healthy adults.

How much of Americans' overall health is related to these non-health care factors? Which factors are most important for good health? What policy changes could provide more opportunities for people to make healthy choices? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Commission to Build a Healthier America recently offered a series of recommendations for policymakers and the public laying out a roadmap for building healthier communities.

To discuss these recommendations and questions, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored a May 15 briefing. An expert panel drawn from members and staff from the commission included: former Senator Bill Frist of Vanderbilt University, a member of the commission; Paula Braveman of the University of California at San Francisco, principal researcher for the commission's work; and David Williams of the Harvard School of Public Health and staff director of the commission. Moderating were Robin Mockenhaupt of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Ed Howard of the Alliance.