Academic journal article Generations

Healthy Aging: Priorities and Programs of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Academic journal article Generations

Healthy Aging: Priorities and Programs of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Article excerpt

Public health at the federal level.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the lead federal agency for promoting and protecting the health and safety of people -at home and abroad-by prmiding credible information to enhance health decisions and promoting health through strong partnerships. "The agency works to accomplish its mission in a number of ways: for example, through monitoring health, conducting research on the prevention of disease, developing and promoting sound public health policies, implementing prevention strategies, promoting healthy behaviors, fostering sate and healthful emironments, and providing leadership and training. In 1998, CDC made a specific commitment to raise the visibility of aging as a public health issue and to delineate the agency's roles in promoting and protecting the health of older people. This paper describes these roles, including actions taken through the CDC Healthy Aging Program and its partners, and introduces the CDC vision for engaging the aging network in public health initiatives.


Poor health is not an inevitable consequence of growing older. In fact, many effective strategies exist for individuals and communities to take charge of their health and prevent, reduce, or delay disease and disability (Rowc and Kahn, 1998). Much of the illness and disability experienced by older adults has its origin in health-damaging behaviors, including tobacco ILSC, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity (CDC, 2004). An enhanced focus on prevention holds the greatest promise for maintaining independence and high quality of life for older adults and for reducing spiraling healthcare costs. Together, the public health and aging networks can provide the information, knowledge, and opportunities to maintain or enhance the health status of older adults and preserve their ability to engage in the activities and pursuits that they find fulfilling.

In 1987 Congress recognized the role of CDC in healthy aging in Title 3, Part D, of the Older Americans' Act, advising the Assistant Secretary for Aging to consult with the CDC Director in earning out the act's provisions. In 2000, then-CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan, established an ad hoc working group to the formal Advisory Committee to the Director, CDC, to articulate CDC'S roles in health promotion and disease prevention for older adults. This working group, in collaboration with a variety of health and aging experts, identified five areas to which CDC could contribute unique expertise and leadership: (1) providing high-quality information to the public and practitioners, (2) linking the expertise of the public health network and the aging services network, (3) putting science into community practice, (4) monitoring health trends among older adults, and (5) supporting prevention activities in healthcare delivery systems. (Figure 1, outer circle).

This paper provides several examples of how work in these areas can and should be used to promote and safeguard the health of older adults. The examples cut across disciplines and sectors and address the wide array of health issues and needs pertinent to older adults.

Successful action in each of these areas requires close collaboration with partners, both within and outside of the public health network. Within CDC, the Healthy Aging Program, which coordinates multi-disciplinary healthy aging activities across the agency has raised the visibility and importance of older adult health among CDC programs designed to address specific diseases, conditions, or problems, such as diabetes and injury. Externally, CDC works collaboratively with the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA), as both agencies have as part of their respective missions promoting health and well-being among older adults. Additionally, CDC has developed a broad base of other partners from the aging network. These partners include AARP, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the American Society on Aging (ASA), the National Council on the Aging, the National Association of State Units on Aging (NASUA), and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging-all of which serve older adults in communities across the nation. …

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