Health Care

Former US Health Secretaries Call for Big Ideas To Prevent Chronic Diseases

April 24, 2018  • Kathleen G. Sebelius & Tommy G. Thompson

Former US Secretaries of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Tommy Thompson are co-chairs of the Aspen Health Strategy Group (AHSG). The Aspen Health Strategy Group is comprised of 24 senior leaders across influential sectors such as health, business, media, and technology, who are tasked with providing recommendations on important and complex health issues to promote improvements in policy and practice.

Each year the AHSG tackles one issue for a year-long, in-depth study. This year’s topic is the prevention of chronic disease. Do you have a big idea to tackle this issue? Submit it to us online by filling out this short form.

Chronic diseases are the top causes of death and disability in the US. The prevalence of chronic disease has continued to increase for reasons related to behavioral, environmental, and social contexts: an aging population, poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, inadequate primary prevention, and tobacco use, among others. This prevalence places an increasing burden on the health system. While the health system is working to improve care for people with these conditions, more needs to be done. To make a real difference we must work to prevent chronic diseases. Changing dietary guidelines and encouraging physical activity aren’t moving the needle enough. We need creative approaches and big ideas.

What are the most promising models for the prevention of chronic diseases? How can health systems, communities, and policymakers work together toward this goal? Where should communities and systems invest to make the largest impact with limited resources? How can we address disparities in communities that lead to increased risk factors? These are all questions the Aspen Health Strategy Group plans to explore.

America needs new ideas to address our most complex and controversial health challenges. In 2016, we spent $3.3 trillion, or nearly 18 percent of our GDP, on health care services even as our people suffered from unnecessary illness, health disparities, and unaffordable costs.

As the health care system experiences unprecedented transformation and amazing biomedical innovations, the politics of health care are often polarized. This is why the Aspen Health Strategy Group is seeking to promote innovations in health care that break through existing political and institutional barriers. In our first year, we addressed end-of-life care; in our second, we tackled the opioid crisis.

In 2016, we spent nearly 18 percent of our GDP on health care services even as people suffered from unnecessary illness.

In the tradition of the thought-provoking conversations and ideas shared at the Aspen Ideas Festival and Aspen Spotlight Health about how to solve critical societal issues, we are looking for big ideas that will transform the way we are addressing chronic disease in our country. They should be “big” as in meaningful and bold and “ideas” as in reflecting thought and not just an exhortation that someone do something that they should be doing already.

We know that good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, so we are opening up our solicitation for big ideas to everyone. If you have an idea for preventing chronic disease, we hope you will share it with us. The AHSG staff and members will select up to five that will be presented during a session of Spotlight Health in June and included in a paper that will be prepared later in the year. This isn’t a competition — there is no prize — but your big idea just might become the starting point for much-needed change in health care.

Find complete information about our guidelines and submit your big idea here.

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