NPHW Forum Discusses Path Toward a Healthier America

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Earlier this week, national health leaders joined the American Public Health Association (APHA) to discuss how the vision of becoming the healthiest nation in one generation can become a reality.


This week is National Public Health Week (NPHW), a yearly observance to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation. This year’s theme is Public Health: Start Here, which draws attention to topics including school nutrition, disaster preparedness, prevention, food safety and community health.

Americans are sicker and have shorter life expectancies than people in 16 other wealthy nations.

Five years ago the APHA launched a video envisioning the U.S. becoming the “healthiest nation in one generation.” You can watch it below.

On Monday, a National Public Health Forum discussed how this vision of becoming the healthiest nation in one generation can become a reality [1]. In a panel discussion hosted in Washington, D.C., APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, said:

The idea is for us to begin to start a movement, starting today, to be the healthiest nation. And we think we can do that within the next generation.

It’s not going to be easy. A recent report from the National Research Council finds that Americans are sicker and have shorter life expectancies than people in 16 other wealthy nations [2]. Dr. Steven Woolf, author of the study and Virginia Commonwealth University professor, asked:

How many parents in America know that a child is more likely to die before age 5 if it’s an American child than if it’s a child born in other high-income countries, that [American] babies are less likely to reach their first birthday? And this is true across different subgroups. It’s not just for racial and ethnic minorities, but all social classes. College-educated Americans die earlier than college-educated people in other countries. Rich Americans die earlier than rich people in other high-income countries.

If we help Americans understand this evidence and the seriousness of the problem, I think we might see a change in the resolve to do something about it.

Chief Program and Strategy Officer Brian Castrucci from the de Beaumont Foundation, a non-profit that works to transform the practice of public health through strategic and engaged grantmaking, called National Public Health Week an opportunity to “start now” on working to overcome challenges, such as insufficient data and business sectors that do not yet adequately protect the health of their workforce. He also urged people to make a personal commitment to health.

Programs funded by the de Beaumont Foundation build the capacity and stature of the public health workforce, improve public health infrastructure, and advance the distribution and relevancy of information and data in the field.


  1. NPHW forum discusses path toward a healthier America. Public Health Newswire. 2014 Apr 8.
  2. National Research Council. U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2013.
About the Author

Jenny Jessen is a senior writer at Highlight HEALTH.