Our vision is a nation in which the norm is for employers, educators, clinicians, and communities to have policies, environments and programs that make healthy lifestyle the easiest choice, resulting in lower medical costs and utilization, job creation, and reduction of the federal debt.
Our strategy evolved based on our progress and changing mission. In the early 2000’s, our strategy was to engage the health promotion community in developing, supporting and passing legislation to integrate health promotion into national policy. After successfully incorporating several pieces of health promotion legislation into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we shifted our focus to engaging economists, scholars, elected officials and business leaders in serious discussions of the fact that federal spending on medical care would exceed total federal revenues before the end of the 21st century and likely bankrupt the nation decades before that. Improving lifestyle practices has the potential to substantially reduce these costs, and at the same time to create jobs and improve the health and quality of life for millions of people. We were not successful in stimulating those discussions so we shifted our focus to advancing the concept of Health Promotion for All in 2017, with the hope of stimulating state and local communities to integrate health promotion concepts into local businesses, healthcare systems, schools, and policy. We were successful in stimulating several promising conversations but were not able to achieve any meaningful results. In 2020, we recognized that we were unlikely to make any significant progress and terminated these efforts. In September of 2020, we liquidated our assets and donated them to American College of Lifestyle Medicine because their vision aligns closely with ours and their leadership team and members have the talent and passion required to transform vision into reality.
We continue to believe that making healthy lifestyle the norm may be the only viable strategy to improve the health of our population and reduce the chronic diseases that lead to medical spending that is unsustainable to individuals, employers, state governments and the federal government. We also believe that it is feasible to achieve this goal based on several dozen successful efforts in clinical, organizational and community settings, but only if sophisticated, intensive best practice approaches are followed.
We believe that the individuals and organizations involved in Health Promotion Advocates have the necessary scientific knowledge and practical experience to articulate a strategy and show others how to implement these strategies nationwide, but we do not have the ability to persuade foundations, employers, community leaders and governments to invest the necessary influence and resources to make this a reality. Our hope is that other organizations with more influence and resources will pick up the baton and advance the good work HPA accomplished over its 20 years history.
20 Years of History in a Nutshell
Health Promotion Advocates was conceived in 2000 with the goal of integrating health promotion concepts into national policy. After more than 300 interviews with leaders of professional associations, advocacy groups, scholars and practitioners to identify priorities and gaps, we decided to focus on federal legislation so we incorporated a 501-c4 entity that allowed us to devote 100% of our resources to advocacy. We recruited more than 2,500 grass roots advocates and, despite no previous policy experience, were successful in introducing three pieces of legislation that were incorporated into the Affordable Care Act. See details on that phase here.
In 2001, we discovered that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that federal medical spending would exceed 100% of federal tax revenues before the end of the century. Those projections have remained consistent in subsequent reports. We could not imagine any outcome other than extreme rationing or fiscal collapse of the nation if that occurred and those concerns are elevated as we think about a post COVID world in which the federal debt could increase by as much as $5- $10 trillion in the next several years because of increased stimulus spending and reduced tax revenue flowing from a contracted economy. Our internal analysis showed that total long term federal debt could be reduced by a third if the annual rate of increase in Medicare could be reduced by 1 percentage point, something a number of the largest employers have achieved through comprehensive health promotion programs. We dreamed about drawing out the most impactful elements of these programs and making them the norm throughout society, including in all workplaces, schools, faith communities, and as part of local, state and national policy. We shared this story with health promotion practitioners and scholars, Congressional office staff members, and the few health economists, health policy leaders and foundations we could reach, with the hope that a major foundation or highly influential and resourced group would recognize the value of our insights and integrate our dream into their strategic plan. The rationale for this work is summarized in following articles:
- Can we reduce our federal deficit and create jobs by making the healthy choice the easiest choice? O’Donnell MP.Am J Health Promot. 2011 Nov-Dec;26(2):iv-xii. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.26.2.iv.PMID: 22040400
- A strategy to create jobs and reduce the deficit by making the healthy choice the easiest choice. O’Donnell MP.Am J Health Promot. 2012 Jul-Aug;26(6):iv-xi. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.26.6.iv.PMID: 22747326
After several years, we realized that our hope of someone else leading the charge was not realistic, and our vision of healthy lifestyle as the norm was not going to happen unless we helped make it happen ourselves, which brings us to the present day…searching for communities that might want to collaborate with us to provide the highest quality health promotion services to all members of their community by integrating health promotion into all aspects of their society, something we call Health Promotion for All.
Ecosystems for Healthy Lifestyles
Ecosystems for Healthy Lifestyles is a grass roots effort with the vision of making healthy lifestyle the norm throughout Colorado that emerged directly from an effort originally called Universal Access to Health Promotion. Their approach focused on creating scalable, fiscally sustainable ecosystems for healthy lifestyles.