Karen DeSalvo and Georges Benjamin
November 21, 2016
The average lifespan in the United States has extended by 10 years since the 1950s, an achievement made through progress in healthier behaviors, cleaner air, food and water, and breakthroughs in disease diagnosis and treatment. Over the last several years, we have seen critical improvements in access to health insurance coverage and digitizing care. Public and private sectors have also joined forces to innovate the payment system, significantly improving health care quality, experience, and patient safety.
Yet, our work is only beginning. Life expectancy in the United States has been stagnant for three years in a row; in some parts of the country, life expectancy has actually declined. To truly achieve better health for everyone, we must ensure the conditions in which everyone can be healthy, and this will take more than the health care system. We must address the upstream drivers of health that touch everyone, no matter where they are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age. Public health is the essential infrastructure for this work, but it needs to innovate, and in many ways, reinvent itself so that we have what it takes to ensure that the American people are healthy, ready, and competitive in this global economy.