Today, April 22, 2013 marks the 43rd year that we observe Earth Day in the United States -- a day where we stop and appreciate Mother Nature's contributions to keeping us healthy.
At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we work to create and maintain a healthy environment, while recognizing that the true resources for staying healthy are not government initiatives at all. They are nearby natural parks and hiking trails that you can walk or jog through, or a body of water perfect for kayaking or swimming.
Doing what is good for the planet is good for our health. Conserving energy and water, choosing healthy or locally grown foods, walking and biking instead of driving, and recycling are some of the best things we can do for our health and the health of those around us. These simple, green activities can reduce the risk of health issues like asthma or even cancer.
A healthy planet can also help us fight another serious health issue our country is facing--obesity. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released early data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. The survey found that only a little over half of adults 18 and older in the U.S. were meeting the physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity set forth by the federal government. The same survey found that nearly 30 percent of adults 20 years and older are obese. And obesity now affects nearly a fifth of all children and adolescents in the United States--triple the rate from just one generation ago. The good news is we can help curb the national obesity trend with assistance from the world around us.
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, and there is no better place for physical activity than the beautiful outdoors.
I hope that you will join me in observing Earth Day 2013, and go for a walk outside. Take a deep breath of fresh air and enjoy the many gifts of our planet. Earth Day reminds us that being a healthy nation requires going beyond our clinical resources--it starts with a healthy environment.