The Role of Public Health in Helping Older Americans Live Healthy and Independent Lives

Focus Area:
The Health of Aging Populations

Thanks in part to our country’s public health system, life expectancy at birth in the U.S. today is 79 years, compared to 55 a century ago. In a new Milbank blog post, John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health, and Terry Fulmer, president of The John A. Hartford Foundation, say that now it’s time for public health to help our growing population of older adults remain healthy and independent.

Along with living with at least one chronic condition, older adults often face isolation and loneliness, financial struggles, and limited access to transportation, healthy food, and affordable housing. To help meet these needs, TFAH and The John A. Hartford Foundation have developed the “Framework for Creating Age-Friendly Public Health Systems,” which describes five key roles for public health departments across the country.

Auerbach and Fulmer outline these roles, such as convening people in different sectors, from parks and recreation to geriatric physical therapy, to help support healthy aging in the community. The authors then highlight examples from state and county health departments in Florida, Oregon, and California that are building on the Age-Friendly Public Health framework.