Expert faculty in the Bloomberg American Health Initiative outline steps to address causes of declining U.S. life expectancy, including COVID-19 and overdose
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky emphasized the need for policy change to improve data for public health
Pennsylvania Governor-elect Josh Shapiro and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham address state-level solutions to public health priorities such as gun violence, overdose, maternal care, and the environment
Baltimore, MD & Philadelphia, PA – Today, the Bloomberg American Health Summit convened public health practitioners, innovators, and policymakers from around the country to address the priority public health challenges impacting health and life expectancy in the U.S. These pressing issues include the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the overdose epidemic, adolescent mental health, and gun violence, among others. Additionally, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released a report setting out 10 practical steps to address major causes of declining life expectancy in the U.S., with the aim of saving lives.
The Summit took place at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, hosted by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, a program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Speakers included public health officials, government leaders, and changemakers such as governors from Pennsylvania and New Mexico, state health commissioners, and representatives from groups like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Everytown for Gun Violence Solutions and Johns Hopkins University.
“Our democracy was born right here in Philadelphia. The story of our American democracy is one where we take a few steps forward and then we take a step back, but, the greatness of this American story is that we always make forward progress. Forward progress, being made by ordinary Americans, rising up, demanding more, seeking justice, looking for a better future, for all,” said Governor-Elect Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania in his remarks. “While the foundation of our American democracy, the right to vote, has been tested, so is the basic health of our citizens. That basic health is critical to American democracy, it’s a foundational principle of our society – to make sure that everyone has a shot at a good and healthy life.”
Other highlights and commentary from featured speakers on December 6:
- Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, 108th Mayor of New York City and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases & Injuries, said: “The United States is not at the top of the list when it comes to life expectancy in the developed world…we are number 40. In the greatest, and wealthiest, and most powerful country in the world, we rank 40th in the area that matters most, staying alive. That is a national embarrassment. The good news is, the challenges we face are not insurmountable. After all, the history of American public health is filled with extraordinary successes. Anyone who buckled a seatbelt this morning, or who ate breakfast without trans fats, or sat in a smoke-free diner, has benefited from public health initiatives, even if they don’t realize it… But, as we know, we are not moving fast enough….Call your member of Congress and other elected officials and tell them to stop protecting special interests and industries, and start protecting us instead, or we are going to vote them out of office and replace them with people who will.”
- Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), addressed the importance of standardized data in improving public health decision-making, saying in her remarks, “Recommendations on how to change poor health outcomes, caused by conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, are hampered by data that comes to us slowly, sometimes months, or even years, after they are collected, and without information in all of the fields. I’ve spent considerable time on the Hill speaking with members and promoting the recent legislation introduced by Senator Tim Kaine (VA) and Representative Lauren Underwood (IL) that will provide CDC and public health writ large a modern policy tool to create uniform data standards that local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal health systems would all use, providing secure access to data in a standardized, timely, and coordinated way. This will mean better data, faster data, and reduced burden on data providers.”
- Governor-Elect Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania spoke extensively about the toll of gun violence, the overdose epidemic in Philadelphia and the implications of learnings from the state-level for national solutions. During his remarks, he said, “As Governor, I will put a mental health counselor in every single school across Pennsylvania. A few years ago, we launched an initiative in the Attorney General’s office, called “Safe to Say”, an anonymous tip line so kids could report if someone was bringing a gun to school or going to do something violent. We have received over 80,000 tips in the last four years, but the majority of the tips were not about someone bringing a gun to school, 77% were about mental health, such as suicide ideation and self-harm. The tips were about students reporting themselves and others who were crying out for help. We are the only state in the nation that has this data that has been gathered by the students. If we want to ensure good health outcomes, then we must invest in the mental health of our children. They need our help and we need to act now. I invite you to work with us on that [youth mental health] and the public health epidemic that is gun violence.”
- Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico spoke extensively about the role poverty and lack of access to education play in public health outcomes, as well as the importance of addressing maternal health needs and the role the environment plays in health. During her remarks, she said, “You’ve got to address the environment and absolutely we are. We have leading methane and ozone rules. We are preventing all of our fossil fuel folks from putting any of our greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. We are working on strategies that pull carbon right out of the atmosphere. As you know, the federal government adopted New Mexico’s rule for clean air standards and methane pollution. If we do all of those things, clearly eradicating poverty, we will lead the world in making sure that public health is the number one issue. Making a difference, seizing every opportunity. And before I go, we have one more incredible announcement. In New Mexico, starting right now, no one pays for a meal in school. We are leading the nation in addressing food insecurity in the country. And this doesn’t mean just pizza slices and chocolate pudding, this means farm to table fresh fruits, scratch cooking, and incentivizing it in our schools.”
- Dr. Mary T. Bassett, New York State Commissioner of Health, emphasized the importance of pursuing public health policies through the lens of health equity, saying, “I want to applaud the initiative and Bloomberg Philanthropies for putting a spotlight on the reduction in life expectancy. Everyone should understand how shocking this is. This is something that should not happen during peacetime. And it’s happening in our country, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in the world. And the loss of three years of life expectancy also reflects a much larger loss of life expectancy among marginalized groups. Groups, because of bad policies and a tortured history, have been deprived of the resources for a healthy life. When we talk about tackling life expectancy we have to be talking about equity. I’m really grateful to Mayor Bloomberg for pointing out that the obstacles often mean that we have to get out of our lane when in public health and talk about the political barriers to taking the right actions.”
- Michael A. Nutter, Former Mayor of Philadelphia, emphasized the importance of keeping public health on the agenda at convenings such as these, saying, “The 2022 Bloomberg American Health Summit examines public health’s critical, on-the-ground role in working with, and on behalf of, communities across the country. Certainly over the past 3 years, public health has been in the spotlight and tasked with addressing national and global crises of an unprecedented level. I’ll never forget back in March 2020, the work that Mayor Bloomberg did to bring together 400+ mayors across the country and around the world, to take on the challenge and the crisis of the coronavirus, sharing information and helping others to learn what to do in this incredible circumstance. Our city, much like this initiative, always strives to help improve healthcare outcomes and save lives, especially of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Marking its fifth year, the Bloomberg American Health Summit was first held in 2017 in Washington, DC, and was held virtually in 2020 and 2021 before resuming an in-person convening this year. As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, forums for experts to share solutions and strategies for addressing priority public health concerns remain vital to saving lives and protecting future generations.
To watch the full recording and to hear from other key health officials, and leaders of nonprofit organizations from around the country, click on the livestream recording link below in the “video” section.
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About the Bloomberg American Health Initiative:
The Bloomberg American Health Initiative was developed at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to tackle five core issues that deeply challenge the nation’s health: addiction and overdose; adolescent health; environmental challenges; obesity and the food system; and violence. The Initiative’s work with faculty, fellows, and collaborating organizations is building a dynamic nationwide network committed to harnessing data and developing new approaches to public health that will ensure a healthier future for all Americans. Learn more here: Bloomberg American Health Initiative.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 941 cities and 173 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.66 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.