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Message from the Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee on World Health Day, April 7, 2012

“Good Health Adds Life to Years”

I join the international community in celebrating World Health Day. Every year, World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. World Health Day is a global campaign, inviting everyone – from global leaders to the public in all countries – to focus on a single health challenge with global impact.

This year’s theme, “Good Health Adds Life to Years,” focuses on how good health throughout life can help older men and women lead full and productive lives. It stresses that older people are a valuable resource for their societies and that societies that take care of their older populations, and support their active participation in daily life, will be better prepared to cope with the changing world.

These themes are in keeping with the programs promoted through the Older Americans Act (OAA) to help older Americans maintain their health and independence in their homes and communities. For example, the Administration on Aging’s (AoA) chronic disease self-management programs provide older adults with education and tools needed to help them cope with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or arthritis. These programs help participants manage stress, understand the benefits of physical activity and good nutrition, and communicate more effectively with health care providers. AoA is working with the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators to increase the availability of accredited diabetes self-management training. Qualified Medicare beneficiaries who complete accredited programs are then eligible to receive a prevention benefit under Medicare Part B.

Other evidence-based prevention programs provide safe and effective low-impact aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching. Falls management programs address the fear of falling while our nutrition education programs teach older adults the value of choosing and eating healthy foods, and maintaining an active lifestyle. Depression and substance abuse programs teach older adults how to manage their mild to moderate depression. All of these programs are built on research and have been proven to be effective in reducing risk of disease, disability and injury. These programs are all in addition to the many other OAA health-related programs, such as health screenings and nutritious congregate and home delivered meals.

The AoA funded Center for Healthy Aging helps community-based organizations develop and implement evidence-based programs that promote healthy lives for older adults. For further information, please go to http://www.ncoa.org/improve-health/center-for-healthy-aging/.

Working with other agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are building bridges between health and social services networks and developing interventions that promote healthy aging. For example, AoA and CMS are funding states to help seniors, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers better understand and navigate their health and long-term care options. For example, CMS recently funded 30 sites, including 23 Area Agencies on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Centers in equal partnership with health systems, to expand community-based approaches for reducing hospital readmissions and supporting individual care across settings.

As a member of the CDC Healthy Aging Research Network, we are working to develop and implement a national research and dissemination agenda related to the public health aspects of healthy aging. The AoA Health, Prevention, and Wellness Program website offers a number of resources and related links. Please go to http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HPW/index.aspx.

The WHO put together a toolkit to help communities organize events for World Health Day. It is available at http://www.who.int/world-health-day/2012/en/index.html. In addition, the Pan American Health Organization, WHO’s regional office for the Americas, will hold a Healthy Aging symposium at 9:30 am, EST on April 12th. You may participate by going to either http://www.paho.org/virtual/WHD2012 or http://www.livestream.com/PAHO.