Over the course of the last several decades in the United States, the landscape of health has vastly changed. Today, more than 70 percent of adults across the United States have already been diagnosed with a chronic disease. This is a result of the majority of people across America drinking high-calorie beverages instead of water, working more hours and sleeping less, and being less physically active than ever before. These changing lifestyles are directly linked to a rise in preventable diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes – diseases that, in addition to taking a toll on our health, are driving up health care costs in a way that can’t be sustained. More than 75 percent of the nation’s healthcare spending is being spent on managing and treating these conditions. If these trends continue, Columbia University researchers project that there will be $48 - $66 billion added to current health care costs each year between now and 2030.
While Americans are less healthy than ever before, the good news is this: we know that making healthy lifestyle choices can directly affect our future health. And we have the knowledge, resources, and technology to help people make these changes. Despite all of this knowledge, we know that significant health disparities exist across the United States. These disparities exist along racial, ethnic and most significantly, socioeconomic lines and largely come down to access to healthy lifestyles. We need to acknowledge that individual responsibility is a part of the equation, and that it is easier for someone with means and knowledge to access healthier foods and partake in regular physical activity. That is why we are dedicated to scaling solutions to provide more people access to healthy lifestyles, and to inspire individuals, communities, and corporations – to make health and wellness a priority.
We created the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) to do just that – to help individuals change the course of their own health while simultaneously working to change the systems and places that affect individual health. We recognized that there is a lack of access to education and solutions on how to improve health – both at an individual and community level. We looked at these challenges that individuals, families, and communities face on a regular basis, and asked, what can we do to help? And how can these changes cause a ripple effect among communities across the United States?
At the individual level, CHMI will encourage people to contribute to the health of others by taking simple, every day actions. We will provide an online platform to help – clintonhealthmatters.org. In addition to providing opportunities for individuals to lead local wellness efforts such as coordinating free walking groups and extending farmers' markets to local food deserts, this platform will help individuals share ideas that work, so that the most effective solutions can meet more people.
To improve community health, CHMI will work to close gaps in health disparities by acting as a convener. Currently CHMI is working with Coachella Valley, California, and Little Rock, Arkansas, to help increase access to healthy food and produce and help address chronic, preventable diseases and lower health care costs.
In order to create true broad-based health solutions that address systems and environmental factors, we are also engaging the private sector to take action in improving health and well-being for their employees, customers, and the greater community. CHMI works with corporations and non-governmental organizations to make pledges to change business practices which will focus on improving health as well as invest in community programs for well-being.
As we developed CHMI, we knew that these solutions would take time and energy from people and groups across communities and sectors to activate change. While improving overall health outcomes – for individuals or communities – is a larger change that will happen over the course of years and decades, we know that by taking small steps today, we can begin to see results that will drive the future of our country’s health.