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Policy Fundamentals For Better Health

To live longer, healthier lives, people should be empowered to engage in positive health behaviors. People also need access to affordable, high-quality health care, prescription drugs, and long-term services and supports as well as social engagement. Maintaining and improving cognitive health is critical to increasing quality of life as people age. Eliminating health disparities must be a priority.

Enabling the improvement of people’s health depends both on people taking control of their health as they age to the extent they can and on systems that support healthy choices and provide everyone with affordable, high-quality care. To start, people should have access to care through the course of their lives, without regard to their health, wealth or location.

Further, while personal behaviors may affect longevity and disability, they are not the only determinants of healthy living and aging. Access to affordable, high-quality clinical preventive services and medical care is critical. Other factors outside the medical system also affect health and longevity. Socioeconomic factors like income, education and occupation are some examples. Environmental conditions, neighborhood characteristics, cultural norms and the historical legacy of discriminatory private- and public-sector practices also help determine health outcomes. Access to employment, education, housing, healthy foods, safe streets and neighborhoods, and other social supports also promote health and reduce health disparities across the population. Policies and interventions aimed at improving health must address both personal behaviors and systemic factors.