Healthy People 2012 empowers practitioners and community leaders to promote healthful living

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Don Wright, M.D., M.P.H., deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, lectures on the National Prevention Strategy during Healthy People 2012.

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More than 300 people attended Healthy People 2012, which was held on the campus of Loma Linda University on March 6 and 7. Many health care leaders from across the United States brought the theme, “Healthy Aging and Living Whole,” to the forefront with their presentations.

The conference theme gleaned topics from the U.S. Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy. From that strategy, the conference identified priorities for optimal aging including healthy eating, active living, prioritizing rest, social and spiritual support systems, and other considerations.

With tracks specifically designed for clinical practitioners, community leaders, and empowered community members, there were take-aways for just about everyone. Physicians, dieticians, nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists sat with policy makers, county officials and retirees.

Keynote speaker Don Wright, M.D., M.P.H., deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about the importance of aligning efforts to create a healthy America. He also addressed aging issues including gaps in access to practitioners, long-term care needs, and facing a wide spectrum of dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Plenary lecturer Janet Wright, M.D., executive director of the Million Hearts Initiative, described the initiative with its clearly stated goal of preventing a million heart attacks and strokes in five years.

Wright explained how current policy efforts are working to help people live healthier through education and menu labeling requirements in many locations. She also discussed the war on trans fats, and how that continues to affect communities. She said the initiative is pushing for increased adoption of health information technology to better assist clinicians, further empower patients through easier access to records, and by providing timely reminders and health-reinforcing messages.

“Healthy aging is all about putting the puzzle pieces together,” notes conference coordinator Krystal Gheen, MPH. “There are so many parts to aging healthfully that we must take a comprehensive preventive approach with wellness and lifestyle.”

Between lectures, Romy Niblack, director of senior wellness at Drayson Center (the conference venue), brought a group of seniors, ranging in age from 65 to the late 80s, to lead out in aerobic exercises for attendees. A number of these seniors were also featured in a video presentation highlighting their experiences of aging healthfully.

On the second day of the conference, Arlene Blix, Dr.P.H., shared with the audience a glimpse into the life and work of her late husband, Glen Blix, Ph.D. Glen, who died in 2002, was a School of Public Health professor and administrator who was “passionate about life,” according to Arlene. Glen was involved in the founding of the annual Healthy People Conference several decades ago. A memorial video was presented, followed by a conversation about aging and grieving with Arlene and Tricia Penniecook, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the School of Public Health. Arlene wrote Blindsided last year, a book about coping with the loss of a loved one.

Abstracts, speaker biographies, presentation files, and additional information from the two-day conference can be found online at

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