By Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) mission is to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans. As Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, I have made it my personal goal to confront two of the largest, most intractable challenges to health and well-being in the United States: poor nutrition and physical inactivity.
Currently, about half of all Americans have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are directly related to inadequate physical activity and unhealthy eating. These preventable diseases cause untold suffering for millions of people and impose a huge burden on our healthcare system and economy. But there are many ways in which the Federal government is actively working to address these behavioral health challenges. We are dedicated to implementing research, policies, and programs to improve dietary quality and physical activity in the United States. Initiatives such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, and the Healthy People 2020 Objectives for the Nation are just a few examples of how we target preventable disease and obesity at the national level. And yet, we must recognize that there is still much more that can be done.
Stepping it Up and Eating Right: Past and Future Successes in Federal Nutrition and Physical Activity Policy and Programs outlines the successes made during the past eight years to improve nutrition and physical activity in the United States. Importantly, it also outlines several paths to continue this progress. It is my hope that continued focus on these two important issues will help to achieve better health and well-being for all Americans in the years to come. We need to redouble our efforts and continue to make physical activity and better nutrition important parts of our national public health agenda….as it has been and must continue to be.