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Public Health Rep. 1985 Mar-Apr; 100(2): 225–230.
PMCID: PMC1424734

Health promotion for older Americans.


As American lifespans increase, there is greater concern for the quality of those longer lives. The Department of Health and Human Services, through its many component agencies, has inaugurated a major initiative to promote health and fitness among older Americans to improve life quality and to reduce health care costs. The older population is a fertile ground for such an initiative, because studies indicate that the elderly are extremely health-conscious and very willing to adopt habits that will maintain good health. Investigation disclosed six target areas of concentration at which the health promotion initiative could be aimed: fitness-exercise, nutrition, safe and proper use of drugs and alcohol, accident prevention, other preventive services, and smoking cessation. The initiative includes cooperative programs with States; dissemination of printed information; nutritious meals for the elderly; a Food and Drug Administration consumer education program; Centers for Disease Control programs on accident prevention; a special task force to deal with Alzheimer's disease; and, in cooperation with states, a media campaign of health promotion for the elderly. At least three national health and senior citizens organizations are working closely with HHS agencies on the initiative. A separate Department effort involves the encouragement of fast-growing health maintenance organizations to promote health and prevention for their Medicare members and the persuasion of Medicare beneficiaries generally to seek second medical or surgical opinions. State and local government and the private sector, responding to Department initiatives, have also been developing programs for the aging. Their interest and participation ensures that special health promotion and disease prevention efforts directed toward elderly Americans will continue and proliferate.

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