Enabling the improvement of people’s health depends on people taking control of their health as they age and on systems that support healthy choices and provide everyone affordable, high-quality care. To start, people should have access to care throughout their lives without regard to health, wealth, or location.
Remaining healthy is a top concern for many older adults. Of particular interest is staying mentally sharp and physically fit. People can stay healthy as they age, in part, by assuming personal responsibility for their health. This includes taking preventive measures to guard against illness and disease. While access to preventive services and quality health care are essential components of health promotion, they are not enough. Social determinants of health—such as access to employment, education, housing, healthy foods, safe streets and neighborhoods, and social supports—are important predictors of health outcomes and behaviors. Interventions and public policies at all levels of government can reduce barriers to healthy living and influence health outside formal medical care systems.
A functioning public health system and infrastructure are also vital in promoting and maintaining health. The goals of public health are to protect and promote health and safety, as well as prevent disease and injury. This is done through research, policymaking, education, and more. For example, public health programs promote healthy lifestyles, fund studies to improve our understanding of disease and injury prevention, and prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. Access to health services (e.g., community health centers) and research and evaluation are also essential components of public health.