Our experiences of warmth, inclusion, and acceptance by our family and friends are particularly accentuated during the rapidly approaching Holiday Season. Why mention this here? Finally, we are beginning to appreciate that our family and our community support systems do play an essential role in promoting our good health and our sense of well-being.
As we implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we will devote much more attention to policies and interventions that promote positive health and well-being. This effort arises from the recognition that health and disease are two separate dimensions, and that effective health promotion can prevent, delay, and mitigate disease. Our work will include improving the positive social determinants of health—such as community and family self-actualization, which can enhance the nurturing environments and life chances needed to improve and maintain good health. In fact, by 2020, fully 30 percent of our health care dollars will be spent on promoting positive health, rather than on treating disease. Because continued good health can actually prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases, many disease care dollars can be saved if we are successful in this work.
To underscore the viral implications of this dramatic change in our thinking about health and disease, ACMHA: The College for Behavioral Health Leadership conducted its inaugural DC Policy Forum this week on Harnessing Community Support for Health and Well-being. On December 4, at a gala reception and dinner event, more than 100 participants explored how community and family factors can improve or harm health. On December 5, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) hosted a Congressional Briefing for more than 150 participants to explore the role that communities and families ought to play as we seek to implement national policies that emphasize health promotion and disease prevention. (Also on December 5, Senator Whitehouse had an Op-Ed in Politico that addressed the subject of his comments: http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/health-care-savings-without-medicare-cuts-84579.html).
Speakers included the noted physician, Dr. Vincent Felitti, former Medical Director of Kaiser Permanente and the principal author of the famed study of adverse childhood experiences, which demonstrated the potent effects of adverse events in harming subsequent health status. Dr. Felitti was joined by Dr. Carolyn Jenkins, a senior investigator at the Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Diabetes and Disparities, who has demonstrated how effective community and family self-actualization and support can reduce the adverse health consequences of diabetes in elderly minority populations.
Dr. Arthur Evans, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, introduced a community mural preparation initiative in downtown Philadelphia to foster community self-actualization around health and well-being. Dr. Thom Bornemann, Director of the Carter Center Mental Health Program, observed that the time has come to recognize the potency of these social determinants of health in our public policies.