Much of the political debate over health reform has focused on the important questions of affordable health insurance coverage and access to medical care. However, medical care is far from the most important factor influencing health, a fact that is at the core of a newly released report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build A Healthier America.
The Commission was initially formed in 2008 and issued 2009 recommendations concerning influences on health such as nutrition, physician activity, and tobacco use. The new report, “Time To Act: Investing in the Health of our Children and Communities,” also focuses on socioeconomic factors; specifically, it recommends increased investments in early childhood development, including universal access to quality early childhood development programs for low-income children under age 5; efforts to promote healthier neighborhoods through collaboration among the health, community development, and finance sectors; and a new orientation for health care providers toward nonmedical determinants of health and working with nonmedical professionals. The report provides examples of successful initiatives in each of these areas.
Most people think about health and health care together, said Mark McClellan of the Brookings Institution, who co-chaired the Commission with Brookings colleague Alice Rivlin, in a webcast marking the report’s release. But “when you start looking at the evidence, looking at what’s working on the ground to actually have a meaningful impact on the health of people,” you realize that “you can’t get there just by putting more resources into health care.”
The new report signals a renewed emphasis for RWJF on addressing the broad universe of factors beyond health care that affect health. “Over the next year, our foundation is really going to invest in what we’re talking about as a culture of health — that is, how do we come together across sectors to make America healthier,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of the foundation.. This post will briefly touch on the report’s recommendations, with more discussion to follow in the coming days via a guest post on Health Affairs Blog and our sister publication, GrantWatch Blog.
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