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Our Commitment To Public Health

the challenge

Not everyone in the United States has the same opportunities to be healthy. Factors outside of individual control, such as the quality of a community’s air and the condition of its parks, affect everything from how likely we are to become chronically ill to how long we will live. Yet many institutions try to improve health by encouraging people to change their behavior -- listen to the doctor, exercise longer -- without looking at the context of their lives. America’s vast health inequities and high rates of disease and death show that those efforts, however well intended, haven’t produced the kind of large-scale, lasting change we need. Finding better solutions is possible. But it will require changing the way we think about and act on the problem.

why it matters

Healthy societies are strong societies. Their citizens are happier and more productive. Their quality of life is higher. Yet research shows that if some communities have significantly greater barriers to resources and opportunities than others, the whole society suffers -- even its wealthiest members. In few places are those barriers more persistent than in the United States. And the more we ignore them, the more our collective health and the strength of our democracy suffer for it. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, our society is better when everyone is vibrant and healthy.

what we can do

If we want our environments to support health for everyone, then we have to influence the decisions and policies that shape those environments. After all, it is policy that gives us or denies us efficient public transportation. It is policy that makes quality housing affordable or keeps it out of reach. Fortunately, we can affect policy in a number of ways: We can get better at articulating the changes we seek, and the systems and structures that must be in place to uphold them. We can get better at explaining how individuals and institutions share responsibility for making those changes. And we can get better at saying why it matters for everyone in society.

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