Today, the U.S. faces major challenges to the health and well-being of
our population. For example:
- 78 million Americans are considered obese
- 117 million people – about half of all adults in the U.S. –
have one or more preventable, chronic diseases
- 70 percent of adults who are overweight and 75 percent of those who are
obese have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease or diabetes
This is the second in a series of articles on recent advances in U.S. efforts
to take a more proactive, preventive approach to improving and protecting
the health of our citizens. We’ll also talk about what you can do
to improve your own and your family’s health, and how Washington
Hospital works every day to protect the health of patients and the community.
“Summer’s coming, and this is a great time to refocus yourself
on living a healthier lifestyle, eating better and exercising more,”
said Anna Mazzei, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Washington
Hospital. “By taking a proactive approach to managing your weight
to prevent or control disease, you’ll also look and feel better.”
Scientific research has demonstrated the close link between Americans’
lifestyle and public health problems, such as obesity and chronic disease.
Based on these findings, the U.S. government is taking a more proactive
approach to improving the health of our population through landmark legislation
and sweeping new policies.
Last year, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion released
the latest Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020. The updated recommendations
place a greater emphasis on adopting healthier nutritional patterns. The
goal is to prevent or slow the progress of chronic disease by making you
more aware of how lifelong eating habits affect your overall health.
Some of the latest dietary guideline concepts were translated into new
food labeling requirements announced by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) this spring. In response to the obesity crisis, nutrition labels
will put a stronger focus on calories, serving size and sugar content.
“These developments represent food policy on a grand scale,”
Meantime, the Affordable Care Act is strengthening the focus on population
health by requiring health plans to include preventive and wellness services
as well as chronic disease management in their core package of Essential
Preventive services in your community
“As part of our mission to serve the health care needs of the community,
Washington Hospital Healthcare System helps people take a more proactive
approach to managing their health and preventing disease,” Mazzei
explained. “We offer a wide range of free and low cost programs,
classes, and services for the public.”
Programs include community seminars, health screenings, support groups
and more. Many of these services are described in a free bi-annual Health
& Wellness Catalog published by the Healthcare System. The catalog
is also available online at www.whhs.com.
To help people with diabetes or at risk of getting the disease, the Washington
Outpatient Diabetes Center has a dedicated team of certified diabetes
educators, including Mazzei, who are trained to teach you the skills needed
to control diabetes for a lifetime. Research shows education helps prevent,
delay, or reverse complications of diabetes when people learn and apply
self-management skills. The center also sponsors monthly diabetes education
classes called Diabetes Matters. At these free seminars, expert speakers
present science-based information to help increase your knowledge about diabetes.
In addition, the Washington Women’s Center provides a host of wellness
and support programs and educational classes for local women. These include
yoga, meditation, touch therapy, and a series of health and wellness-related lectures.
What you can do
Although some things like family history are beyond your control, you
have the power to influence many of the factors that help prevent or control
chronic disease and enable you to live a longer, healthier life. Here
are some tips to get you started:
Become a mindful eater. Recognize that you have the ability to control what you eat and how much
exercise you get. These tools can improve your overall health and longevity.
Read nutritional food labels. Find out about the latest changes in labeling requirements by going to
www.fda.gov, the website of the U.S. FDA. Recommendations for daily intake
are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. By going to www.choosemyplate.com you
can determine your own recommended daily calorie intake, based on your
height and weight.
Educate yourself about ways to improve your health through nutrition, exercise
and other strategies. Take advantage of local, evidence-based wellness and prevention programs,
including those sponsored by Washington Hospital Healthcare System.
To find out more about the health status of Americans and recommendations
for prevention and wellness, go to www.health.gov, the web site of the
U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. To learn more
about the Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020, go to www.choosemyplate.gov.
For more information on the changes in nutritional food labeling, visit
www.fda.gov. For information about wellness and prevention programs from
Washington Hospital Healthcare System, go to www.whhs.com.