January 2011 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy Nears Completion

Among the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148), commonly referred to as health care reform legislation, was authorization for the establishment of a National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council (Council). The legislation authorized President Barack Obama to establish the Council which is to be composed of cabinet secretaries and other federal program directors and would be tasked with developing a National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy (Strategy). The Strategy is envisioned as a tool to:
 
  • set specific goals and objectives for improving the health of the United States through federally-supported prevention, health promotion, and public health programs. . .
  • establish specific and measurable actions and timelines to carry out the strategy, and determine accountability for meeting those timelines. . .
  • make recommendations to improve Federal efforts relating to prevention, health promotion, public health, and integrative health care practices to ensure Federal efforts are consistent with available standards and evidence.[1]
 
The Council aims to address “the underlying drivers of chronic disease [and] shift the nation from today’s ‘sick-care’ system to an actual ‘health care’ system that encourages health and well-being” by pursuing “a more holistic approach to community health that addresses a number of factors that influence our health—housing, education, transportation, the availability of quality affordable food, and conditions in the workplace and the environment” in addition to conventional health care.[2]
 
Set to be released by March 23, 2011, the Strategy will be a result of advice received from an Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, a group of nongovernmental authorities whose purpose is to “develop policy and program recommendations and advise the Council on lifestyle-based chronic disease prevention and management, integrative health care practices, and health promotion.” Other stakeholders, including representatives from community-based organizations, health care practitioners, and public health officials, including the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), also provided input into the final Strategy.[3] The Council also solicited public input through participation in a series of meetings and listening sessions, as well as a formal public comment process.
 
Public health advocates have embraced this valuable opportunity to ensure that the Strategy adequately addresses the needs of the populations they represent and is informed by their unique expertise. The Council released a Draft Framework for the Strategy that enumerated ten strategic directions to guide public input:
 
  • active lifestyles
  • addressing specific populations’ needs to eliminate health disparities
  • countering alcohol/substance misuse
  • healthy eating
  • healthy physical and social environment
  • high-impact, quality clinical preventive services
  • injury-free living
  • mental and emotional well-being
  • strong public health infrastructure
  • tobacco-free living [4]
 
SIECUS provided input outlining that evidence-based and evidence-informed comprehensive sexuality education provides a foundation for several key components of the strategic directions, including eliminating health disparities, injury-free living, and mental and emotional well-being. As SIECUS made clear in its comments to the Council, widespread comprehensive sexuality education can help reduce the health disparities experienced by lower-income individuals, as well as racial and ethnic minorities and gay and bisexual men, by providing them the information they need to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, for which they are at much greater risk than the general population. In addition, comprehensive sexuality education provides young people with the tools, such as communication and negotiation skills, to build healthy relationships that are free from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, thus enhancing their ability to avoid injury at the hands of their partners. Finally, many aspects of comprehensive sexuality education, including fostering a positive body image, promoting self-esteem, teaching young people to respect all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and encouraging a view of sexuality as a healthy and natural aspect of life can have a positive impact on mental and emotional well-being. Given the importance of comprehensive sexuality education to reaching the goals of the Strategy—as well as other public health initiatives it is intended to work in concert with, such as Healthy People 2020 and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy—SIECUS looks forward to its inclusion in the final Strategy.
 
 
 


[1] Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 540, accessed 23 January 2011, <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ148/pdf/PLAW-111publ148.pdf>.
[2] “About,” National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, accessed 23 January 2011, <http://www.healthcare.gov/center/councils/nphpphc/about/index.html#mem>.
[3] Ibid.
[4] “The National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy Draft Framework,” National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council (1 October 2010), accessed 23 January 2011, <http://www.healthcare.gov/center/councils/nphpphc/draftframework_.pdf>.