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Strengthening and Protecting the Public Health

Posted on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Statement by Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh

National Public Health Week is a time to recognize progress we have made in strengthening and protecting the public health and to rededicate ourselves to the work of improving the health and well-being of Americans by preventing disease, supporting medical research, and promoting safer and healthier communities.

This year, one of the main themes of National Public Health Week, “Be Healthy from the Start,”  is particularly appropriate, as we have just marked the end of the first open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act’s focus on prevention and expanding access to quality care is rooted in the concept of “being healthy from the start.” Because of the law, millions more Americans have quality affordable coverage, including preventive services, through the Marketplace or Medicaid. Not only can they get the care they need when they need it, but they can get preventive care as well, many for the first time. Already more than 100 million Americans with private insurance and Medicare have benefitted from expanded coverage of preventive services such as recommended cancer screenings without paying coinsurance or deductibles.

The Affordable Care Act also establishes the National Prevention Council, which, through the National Prevention Strategy, strives to move the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention across all sectors. The Council works in conjunction with the Prevention and Public Health Fund and other efforts to prevent heart attacks, strokes and cancer, reduce tobacco use, prevent obesity, combat health disparities and improve the nation’s health.     

To help gauge advancements in America’s public health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tracks leading health indicators via the Healthy People initiative, which provides science-based 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. (

National Public Health Week is an opportunity to recognize not only the important work of public health workers in communities across our country, but also the role every citizen plays in the effort to "Be Healthy from the Start."

By taking better care of ourselves, and supporting friends and family in their efforts to lead healthier lives, we can all play an important role in National Public Health Week.

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