FALLS CHURCH - Recently, the U.S. Surgeon General and members of the National Prevention Council, including former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, released the first ever National Prevention Strategy. The strategy provides a plan to shift the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention.

The goal of the National Prevention Strategy is to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. The strategy provides these recommendations that are essential to improving the nation's health:

• Building Healthy and Safe Community Environments. Prevention of disease starts in communities and at home, not just in the doctor's office.

• Expanding Quality Preventive Services in both Clinical and Community Settings. When people receive preventive care, such as immunizations and cancer screenings, they have better health and lower health care costs.

• Empowering People to Make Healthy Choices. Policies and programs can make healthy options the easy and affordable choice. When people have access to easy-to-understand information and resources, they are empowered to make healthier choices.

• Eliminating Health Disparities. By eliminating disparities in achieving and maintaining health, we can help improve quality of life for all Americans.

To help achieve these goals, the strategy identifies recommendations to reduce the leading causes of preventable death and major illness. The strategy's seven priorities are these:

• Tobacco Free Living

• Preventing Drug and Alcohol Abuse

• Healthy Eating

• Active Living

• Injury- and Violence-Free Living

• Reproductive and Sexual Health

• Mental and Emotional Well-being

TRICARE applauds the National Prevention Council's efforts and recommendations.

"For years, TRICARE has promoted healthy lifestyles by educating beneficiaries and providing tools and resources for making good decisions about healthy living," said Ginnean Quisenberry, director, Population Health, Medical Management and Patient Centered Medical Home Division of TRICARE. Quisenberry played a key role in preparing the Department of Defense's input to the National Prevention Strategy. "These efforts come not just from within the health system, but are also becoming a focus in areas such as our child care centers, schools, commissaries and fitness centers. Making our communities healthier is a great step toward improving the health of individuals as well."

TRICARE already has several efforts in place for beneficiaries to get healthy and stay healthy. The "Get Fit" campaign, www.tricare.mil/getfit, was started to increase obesity awareness and get beneficiaries and their families moving. Programs and resources, as well as information on treatment coverage for alcohol problems, are available at www.tricare.mil/alcoholawareness.

TRICARE has numerous resources for beneficiaries seeking assistance with quitting tobacco including brochures and toll free smoking help lines, (go to www.tricare.mil/healthyliving/tobaccocessation for more information). Another quit smoking resource is the Department of Defense's www.ucanquit2.org website, which offers tools, a 24/7 online chat, support message boards and a quit smoking program called "Train2Quit."

TRICARE's mental health resource center, www.tricare.mil/mentalhealth, provides confidential access to mental health resources for beneficiaries and their families.

TRICARE also covers clinical preventive services that are available for all beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can visit TRICARE's website, www.tricare.mil/preventiveservices, for more information on covered services.

The National Prevention Strategy is supported by the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. The council is composed of the heads of 17 federal agencies and chaired by the U.S. Surgeon General. More information on the National Prevention Strategy and the National Prevention Council can be found at www.HealthCare.gov/center/councils/nphpphc.