|HHS assistant secretary for health Dr. Howard Koh acknowledged that advancing prevention is not an easy task and shared his version of a popular quote, “An ounce of prevention is a ton of work.”
The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, in coordination with the Office of Disease Prevention, recently held a 2-day conference, “Advancing Prevention: Knowledge Gaps and New Partnerships.”
The conference featured 130 participants with 18 speakers from academic institutions and federal or state agencies. Participants identified such core needs as an inventory of existing prevention research for enhanced synergy and application, network development for collaboration and design of research methods and approaches that take advantage of developing large-scale data sets.
“The whole country is thinking about health today,” said keynote speaker Dr. Howard Koh, HHS assistant secretary for health, referring to the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, which took place that morning. The upholding of the law means that the federal government can move forward with efforts to promote health care prevention strategies. “The health care reform act is a prevention bill,” said Dr. Michael McGinnis, senior scholar at the Institute of Medicine and conference moderator.
“Prevention is the future of our country and next generation,” said Koh. He discussed cancer prevention and its pivotal role in moving our health care system away from disease treatment and toward disease prevention. Programs such as Healthy People, which started in 1979, and the National Prevention Strategy (2010) advance health promotion and disease prevention and serve as examples for future initiatives aiming to do the same.
“Health starts where people live, labor, learn and play,” said Koh. He highlighted four essential goals for the nation’s health: improve quality and length of life, achieve health equity and eliminate disparities, create social and physical environments that make health the easiest choice and facilitate prevention across the lifetime.
Koh acknowledged that advancing prevention is not an easy task and shared his version of a popular quote, “An ounce of prevention is a ton of work.”
A hot item in the discussion of new technologies these days is mobile health (mHealth). Dr. Michael Lauer, director of NHLBI’s Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, highlighted mHealth as a tool to remove collaboration barriers.
“Mobile technologies can break down the silos,” Lauer said. There is a need to go beyond simply communicating with public health officials and community leaders to engaging them. One way this can, and has been, done is through mHealth interventions.—Jessica Schwartz and Ann Benner