When I was growing up, good health meant eating your vegetables, getting a good night's rest, and making sure you stayed up to date on your vaccines.
These things still form the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, but today we've expanded our definition of health to include many of the factors that make up our daily life--whether we get enough exercise and sleep, enjoy supportive relationships, have access to high-quality, affordable health care, and whether we can earn a decent living and feel optimistic about the future.
As the oldest man in my family for three generations, I have always been acutely aware of what a precious commodity good health can be--and it's why I have devoted much of my time at the Clinton Foundation to trying to improve health for all Americans.
As part of that effort, we hosted the Clinton Health Matters sixth annual Activation Summit earlier this week at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, which brought together a distinguished group of health-care, technology, business, education, sports, and government leaders from across the country who are committed to improving the health of their communities--and finding cooperative and innovative ways to do it.
Since the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) was founded in 2012, our staff has been convening diverse sets of regional partners in hopes of reducing health disparities by helping communities identify their biggest health challenges and create road maps to overcome them. What we have found is that when people are willing to sit together, articulate goals, and take concrete steps to advance them, there are a lot of very simple things people can do to reduce the burden of chronic disease and improve their health.
And when we improve individual health outcomes, it has a positive impact on communities and the country as a whole.
Whether that's helping Northeast Florida combat pedestrian deaths in Jacksonville's most dangerous intersections; working with residents of Natchez, Miss., to identify and train community health advocates in an effort to combat obesity, tobacco use, and high rates of heart disease; negotiating with beverage companies to reduce calories in schoolchildren's diets; or working with drug companies to provide discounted naloxone to every high school, college, and public safety office in an effort to reverse opioid overdoses, we have seen that even small interventions can have a big impact when multiplied over many people.
It's why we are helping communities here in Central Arkansas set--and meet--similar goals.
At this week's summit, we were proud to announce a new initiative designed to combat unplanned pregnancies among college students across the state and help young women stay in school. The program--a result of coordinated efforts between CHMI, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, the Women's Foundation of Arkansas, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and Arkansas lawmakers--will make action plans to pre-vent pregnancy, along with the clinical resources needed to support them, a requirement on all Arkansas university and college campuses.
This initiative builds on the good work already being done across the state. With the health of Arkansas' youngest generation in mind, our Alliance for a Healthier Generation has been working through its Healthy Out-of-School Time program to ensure children have access to healthy snacks and physical activity.
And CHMI has also worked with local leaders to develop Arkansas PROMISE, a project in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education and the Social Security Administration that helps young people receiving disability benefits improve their educational and employment outcomes through practical training and support. To date, 1,000 teens have been offered work experience through the program. This has helped them expand what they think is possible for themselves and their future.
These are just a few of the bold steps communities around the country are taking to improve their well-being. In a time when funding for critical health programs is under threat, community-driven, creative partnerships that can fill the gaps between what the government is willing to provide and what the private sector has a business case to produce are more important than ever.
If we've learned anything from doing this work, it's that communities know exactly where these gaps are--and the Clinton Foundation will continue to lend our support as they work to fill them.
President Bill Clinton is the 42nd president of the United States and founder of the Clinton Foundation.
Editorial on 04/13/2017
Print Headline: A brighter future