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The need to improve health behaviors

Will the country's new health law, which extends insurance coverage to 32 million Americans, do much to improve our health? Not necessarily, according to Steve Shortell, PhD, dean of the School of Public Health at Berkeley, who emphasizes in a recent blog entry the need to also improve people's health behaviors.

Fifty percent of the determinants of health are due to our behavior, he notes on The Berkeley Blog, and "the majority of the most costly health conditions are preventable, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and asthma." So what does he advise?

...We need to ensure that the decisions we make about our community are those that promote healthy living; that make it easier for us to do things that promote our health and well-being and difficult to do things that are harmful.

This means access to clean air, safe water, fresh fruits and vegetables, environmentally safe buildings, parks, recreation, roads, and education and cultural opportunities. This is the philosophy of “health in all” policies in which the goal of reducing illness and injury is embedded in cooperative efforts that link our public health and medical institutions with our education, agriculture, housing, transportation and related sectors.

Previously: Trying to cut health-care costs by improving consumer behavior

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