By Brian Weed, MA
More than 300 people attended this year’s Healthy People on March 6 and 7. The theme of "Healthy Aging and Living Whole" was brought to the forefront of presentations by headliners such as Don Wright, MD, MPH, deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Janet Wright, MD, FACC, executive director of the Million Hearts Initiative (no relation to Don Wright), Walter M. Bortz, II, MD, clinical associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, Molly Mettler, MSW, senior vice president of mission at Healthwise, and Bruce Rabin, MD, medical director at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Healthy Lifestyle Program.
The conference theme gleaned topics from the U.S. Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy. From that strategy, the conference identified priorities for healthy aging including healthy eating, active living, prioritizing rest, spirituality, social and spiritual support, and others.
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, MD, MPH, 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 how to face dementias including Alzheimer’s Disease.
Plenary lecturer Janet Wright, MD, FACC, described the Million Hearts Initiative that has a clearly stated goal to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes in five years. Dr. Wright explained how current policy efforts are working to help people live healthier including education and menu labeling requirements in many locations. She also discussed the war on trans fats and how that continues to affect communities. The Initiative is also pushing for further adoption of health information technology to better assist clinicians and further empower patients with access to records and to provide timely reminders and health-reinforcing messages.
"Healthy aging is all about putting the puzzle pieces together," says conference coordinator Krystal Gheen, MPH, RD. "There are so many parts to aging healthfully, that there is not just one magic thing, but we must take a comprehensive approach to overall wellness and lifestyle."
Between lectures over the course of the two days, Romy Niblack, director of senior wellness at the Drayson Center, the venue for the conference, brought along some seniors who range in age up to the late 80s to lead out in some aerobic exercise for the attendees. A number of these seniors were also featured in a video presentation highlighting their experiences of how they have managed to age so healthfully.
On the second day of the conference, Arlene Blix, DrPH, RN, shared with the audience a glimpse into her late husband’s life. Glen Blix died in 2002, almost 10 years to the day of the conference. He was a School of Public Health professor and administrator, and "he was passionate about live," 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, MD, MPH, dean of the School of Public Health. Arlene wrote Blindsided last year, a book last year 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 www.healthypeopleconference.org.