National Public Health Week reminds us of the importance of prevention research

Georges Benjamin, MD

This week, communities across the country are celebrating National Public Health Week. This annual observance recognizes the invaluable work public health professionals contribute to keeping our   communities healthy and safe. It also reminds us of the importance of prevention in ensuring the health   of our nation.

We face a growing burden of chronic disease that is clearly unsustainable. Largely preventable conditions like heart disease, diabetes and stroke are taking too great a toll in lives and investments lost. We must reduce rates of disease and disability if we hope to create a healthier nation.

Conducting research that promotes health and prevents disease is an important step in the right direction. Identifying the most effective interventions and translating that research into policy and public health practice are critical to reaching this goal. Implementing tobacco cessation programs for at-risk youth, providing exercise programs to improve physical activity and better manage depression among older adults, and improving access to affordable, nutritious foods in urban neighborhoods are all examples of the kinds of community-based interventions that research can help put into practice to prevent and control chronic diseases.

Where do we begin? We need to urge greater investments in our nation’s prevention research agenda, including those activities conducted by our lead public health agencies: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency.

We also need to build on public support for these measures. Research America polling shows that Americans think investment in the CDC and prevention and public health research should be increased. We need to translate that support into political will.

National Public Health Week is a timely opportunity to take action and support prevention research. Join us and sign our pledge to help create the healthiest nation. And join the conversation tomorrow, Wednesday, April 8, at 2 p.m. EDT for our fifth annual NPHW Twitter Chat and follow #NPHWchat.  

Georges Benjamin, MD, is executive director of the American Public Health Association.

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Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco