Commission: Invest in children, communities, to build healthier nation

U.S. leaders must shift funds to measures that will improve the country's health, according to the recommendations from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America.

The 16-member commission, including Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., former head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, issued the recommendations in a new report, "Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities," scheduled for release later today.

The Commission agreed social factors place just as much of a role in healthcare as the country's medical care system, and identified areas that had the most potential for positive change and growth in population health. "We cannot improve health by putting more resources into healthcare alone," McClellan said in an announcement. "We must find ways to help more Americans stay healthy and reduce the healthcare costs that are crowding out other national priorities."

The recommendations include the need to:

  1. Support the nation's children when they are young by funding enrollment for low-income children in quality, early childhood development programs by 2025. The recommendations focus on preschool age children, strengthening quality standards for those programs and linking funding to program performance. 
  2. Approach community revitalization in a new way, especially low-income neighborhoods, to create healthy communities and assist people in healthy decision-making. Quickly integrate finance, health and community to create incentives that inspire growth, while replicating promising, integrated models and investing in innovation. 
  3. Address nonmedical factors that affect health within the entire U.S. healthcare system by connecting patients with resources and services in the community that allow them to make informed choices regarding their health. Adopt new health "vital signs" to gage nonmedical health indicators, which will be reinforced by reimbursement incentives. Include social factors like employment and housing in community needs assessments.

"As a nation, we have a responsibility to do right by society's most vulnerable members and by our future generations," said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., MBA. "We  must join forces to foster a culture of health in which everyone--regardless of where they live, their race or ethnicity, or how poor or wealthy they may be--has the opportunity to lead a healthy life."

Last year the American Hospital Association recommended hospitals, especially small and rural ones, should engage the community by developing effective partnerships, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement