Many of the conversations happening about the federal health reform bill are about how health insurance will change in the years to come and how many more people will have access to health care.
This week I'd like to highlight what to me are equally important provisions of the bill: the focus on both public health and disease prevention, and how our environment and actions affect our health.
Oregon's public health system and the collaborative efforts of our state, county and community organizations will be fundamental in this new endeavor to address the health issues affecting all Oregonians' lives. By promoting healthy lifestyles, we can reduce chronic diseases caused by obesity, unhealthy eating and tobacco use. We can also reduce the need for expensive health care.
This is a great time to talk about that because next week we celebrate the annual Oregon Public Health Week. The theme of the week is: "A Healthier Oregon: One Community at a Time."
Key to the success of health reform is the health of our communities. Average Americans spend less than 0.1 percent of their time each year in a health care setting. The other 99.9 percent of the time is spent in daily behaviors and environments that are sometimes hazardous to our health. Unhealthy behavior patterns and environments, many of which can be modified by taking prevention actions, cause 70 percent of all deaths in the United States.
Another important factor in our health is, frankly, who we are and where we live. Moving forward together to eliminate racial, ethnic and geographic health disparities must be a foundation of our collective efforts.
The federal health reform legislation provides funding and support to address these issues and truly make Oregon healthier.
There will be events and presentations throughout public health week on these and other topics. To see the full schedule, click here.
It's also important this week to recognize the work done by our staff and our partners who work in Oregon's Public Health system to stay healthier where they live. Whether it's clean drinking water, initiatives that limit the sale of junk food in schools, or supporting legislation that gives women the right to breastfeed their children at work - Oregon has been a leader and innovator. Public Health helps keep our food safe by tracking contaminants such as E coli and Salmonella. And, of course, Public Health was the center of Oregon's H1N1 response, which is just one example of the monitoring, public education and work they do on infectious diseases every day.
Health is about more than health insurance. It's about how we live, how we work, how we interact with our communities and our environment. It's also about whether we have the information we need to make smart choices and whether we are treated fairly by the health care system.
We are on the verge of truly changing the way we address health in our state and our country, and Oregon will be leading the way. Thanks to everyone whose great work helps us all to be healthy.