Today, the Obama administration is launching the "Healthy Self" campaign to encourage healthy lifestyles and connect people to the coverage and care they need. But first let us tell you about Alicia. A wife and mother of two from Houston, Alicia knows how important her health is, not only for her, but for the people she loves. As she describes it, "When mom gets sick, the whole family feels it."
For years, people like Alicia have been priced out of coverage, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, she and her husband - along with millions of other Americans - were able to find quality plans they could afford. And Alicia didn't waste time putting that new coverage to good use. "I went to my general practitioner and gynecologist," she said. "I finally had all the exams I'd been putting off." And since breast cancer runs in her family, and she was considered high-risk, she was also gene tested to assess her risk of developing breast cancer at no out-of-pocket cost, as it was a covered preventive service.
"After checking off all of those health to-do's, I was energized and ready to tackle just about anything," Alicia said. "It's a relief for me because, as a mom of two boys, I want to be around for them for a long time."
Obtaining health insurance is an important step for anyone looking to keep themselves and their family healthy, which is exactly what more than 16 million people have done since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, contributing to the largest reduction in the nation's uninsured rate in four decades. But we only realize the full value of that coverage when we use it to access the types of preventive services that will keep us healthy.
Every year, chronic diseases - including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - are responsible for 7 of every 10 deaths in America. These illnesses account for 75 percent of the nation's health spending, yet each is either preventable or much more effectively treated if caught early. This is why the Affordable Care Act guarantees that certain preventive services are covered under most private insurance plans. Today, 137 million Americans have guaranteed access to recommended preventive care and services - with no out-of-pocket costs - making it easier to keep themselves healthy with regular checkups, screenings, and vaccinations. And by allowing young adults to stay on their parents' health care plans until age 26, the ACA ensures that they have access to preventive care, as well.
Still, young people often avoid preventive care because they are worried about cost, or as anyone who has lived through their twenties and thirties can tell you, they feel invincible. Too often, young adults bypass checkups and screenings, miss the potential to catch problems early, and end up using the most expensive option available--the Emergency Room.
That's why we are working to promote a better, smarter, and healthier health care system with engaged, educated, and empowered people at the center of it. In addition to picking the right coverage and taking advantage of preventive care and screenings, remaining healthy requires a daily commitment to take control of our own health with healthy eating and exercise.
Be Your Healthiest Self
Today's launch of the "Healthy Self" campaign represents a joint effort between the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Surgeon General, to promote healthy living and to highlight preventive services available for the newly insured, as well as for those who have always had insurance. We have already confirmed 50 events to be held in communities across the country through August, and we will be partnering with the private sector to educate Americans about preventive actions they can take to stay healthy and well. That includes healthy eating, leading a tobacco-free and drug-free lifestyle, taking care of emotional and mental well-being, and of course - taking advantage of preventive services like vaccinations and recommended cancer screenings that are now offered at no out-of-pocket cost.
And we need your help as well. Commit to making your health a priority and join the Healthy Self campaign today, by posting a "#HealthySelfie" on social media. We'll be sharing them on WhiteHouse.gov/Health-Care-in-America. It could be a photo of you working out, choosing a salad or fruit over less healthy options, bypassing the elevators to take the stairs, or heading into the doctor's office for a checkup. Anything that conveys your commitment to your healthy self, and that may move your friends and followers to follow your lead.
We all deserve to live healthy, secure lives - not just for ourselves, but for our families and loved ones as well. Spread the word on the Healthy Self campaign, post a #HealthySelfie, and invest in your own health and well-being. It's an investment we can all afford to make.
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President. Sylvia Burwell is Secretary of Health and Human Services