By: Kaitlin Johnstone

Health care has been an extraordinarily controversial topic in American politics for decades.  Millions of Americans continue to live without health care, and the uninsured and underinsured represent the largest groups in the country. This is because affordability remains a matter of concern; people lack accessibility; and, not everyone understands the fundamentals of health care.  For the citizens who are insured, many rely heavily on treatment, as opposed to taking preventive measures for diseases and illnesses that are avoidable. Two of the primary goals of health care legislation should be educating Americans throughout their lives about the importance of prevention and expanding coverage for preventive care for avoidable diseases.  As a result, treatment related health care costs should be significantly reduced, prevention education would help eliminate health disparities, and preventive health care would ultimately improve the overall health of the country.

Prevention should be a focus throughout each stage of a person’s life.  There should be developmental initiatives for infants, children, and adolescents that would help improve their overall health as they grow. Getting immunized, staying active, eating healthy, and having the necessary vitamins are crucial for the health and wellness of youth. However, in many poor and urban communities, these childhood wellness initiatives are not easily accomplishable.  For example, childhood obesity is currently one of the most pressing and costly issues in developmental health, and this has a lot to do with food deserts. Food deserts are areas where quality food is difficult to afford or access. People in these areas rely heavily on low priced grocery store food or fast food that often lacks nutrients.  These communities need and deserve nutrition education and healthy food options. Until food is more accessible, has a higher quality, and becomes more affordable in all areas, childhood obesity will continue to be an epidemic that will negatively impact a large percent of the American population, particularly those people who live in food deserts.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type two diabetes, and fatty liver disease (CDC). Moreover, if a child is obese, he or she is more likely to be an adult who is obese (CDC). It is important to start making childhood prevention more of an educational priority because many of these diseases and illnesses are avoidable. By educating the community, eliminating food deserts, and making the proper food more accessible to all, America will make great strides toward finally ending childhood obesity. As a result, it would improve children’s overall health, setting them up for a brighter future and healthier adulthood. Moreover, the high costs for treating childhood obesity will substantially drop.

The importance of preventive care does not end after childhood. There are very important preventive measures that adults need to be aware of as they age. Some common measures include immunizations and mammograms and screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and cancer (Gibson). The Affordable Care Act provides significant improvements in the area of prevention since it “requires insurance policies to include a set of preventive services at no cost to the insured” (Gibson). However, the Act as a whole is under constant scrutiny and challenge both in Congress and by the current Administration. The policies herein not only support the Affordable Care Act but also recommend an expansion of the preventive measures outlined in the Act.  By educating people on avoidable diseases and providing free screenings and immunizations, there will be less need for treatment, which would result in lowering unnecessary health care expenses in the long term. Educating people about the accessibility of adult preventive care is paramount to the health of American citizens.

Many people who live very active and healthy lives through childhood and adulthood tend to live longer and have more enjoyable lives as elders. However, prevention and education must also target the elderly because Medicare currently drains about “31 percent of healthcare expenditures or $450 billion dollars” (Clarke). There are many Americans who wait until something is direly wrong before they make their health a priority, instead of preventing or managing the illness from the start. For example, certain aspects of diabetes among the elderly can be controlled through smoking cessation, diet, and exercise instead of expensive prescription medicine. Health care expenditures for treatments are costly, and the people who have unavoidable conditions should be the ones who most use treatment benefits. With the help of child, adult, and elderly preventive care, there would be fewer government expenditures for treatment of avoidable diseases and illnesses. Further, life expectancy should increase, and people would have longer and healthier lives.

The average life expectancy in the United States is 77. Why not spend those years living one’s best life by staying active, healthy, and happy? Some people associate exercise and healthy eating as ideas that have negative connotations. This needs to change. It is time for Americans to take a more active role in their wellbeing. The answer is the “What Do YOU have to Live for Campaign.” The government needs to create a campaign that educates Americans about avoidable diseases and give them a plan that makes them interested, excited, and proud of preventive health care initiatives. It is time to make preventive health care a higher priority.