The Symposium

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, which are responsible for nearly two-thirds of deaths annually in the United States, are exacerbated by the epidemics of obesity and diabetes. The economic toll nationally is nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars. Yet, underlying these diseases are social trends that reduce physical activity and increase calorie consumption – and the continued use of tobacco. We face significant social challenges without an organized system for providing effective prevention to the masses. Although much of that burden could be avoided if we simply applied what we already know about effective prevention and risk reduction, our current efforts do not match our knowledge, and our investments in prevention are miniscule. We seem helpless even to slow these spiraling epidemics in the world’s wealthiest and most technologically sophisticated country.

 

Although we have a wealth of ideas for prevention, our delivery essentially is limited to the treatment of those already sick. Socially and economically this is an unsustainable strategy. In an effort to remedy this situation, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society created a collaborative effort to promote increased investment in prevention, called Every Day Choices.
It is time for us all to respond to this health crisis by creating awareness that prevention is the most reasonable, desirable and effective tool to address these major health issues.

 

The UT System has risen to this national challenge with a proposal to establish itself as a model of primary prevention and wellness in Texas. The enormous influence of this major teaching and research system would be used to develop novel approaches to promote primary prevention to all Texans through example, education, research and collaboration with lawmakers and communities. This effort is being launched through the UT System with a Primary Prevention and Wellness Symposium. We believe this grass-roots effort would be an effective mechanism to overcome barriers to increased investment in prevention and wellness.

 

Objective/outcomes of the Meeting

  • Establish Primary Prevention and Wellness as a priority for all UT System institutions
  • Develop recommendations for policies that lead to implementation of prevention and wellness programs for faculty, staff and students at all UT System institutions
  • Develop recommendations for resources for implementation of prevention and wellness programs in the UT System and measure their impact
  • Develop recommendations for preparing graduates of UT System institutions, especially professional schools, as leaders who will promote a culture of prevention and wellness in professional environments such as:
    • K-12 teachers and administrators
    • Business and law school graduates
    • Health professions graduates
  • Establish the UT System as the national leader in this area with the capacity to share expertise with other programs