Leading public health institutions, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society, recommend five healthy evidence-based behaviors. They are:
In a recent study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, investigators evaluated the adherence to these recommendations by assessing nationally representative surveys over a period of 12 years.
The study was conducted using 26,194 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. These were completed by adults between the ages of 27 and 79; a BMI was also measured for the survey’s participants. The study found that most Americans do not partake in all five recommended behaviors.
The results of the analysis showed that a range of 4.4% to 6.3% of participants engages in all five recommended behaviors. Further, 20.2% to 22.8% of those surveyed participated in at least four of the practices. The percentage of Americans surveyed who only partake in two or fewer of the five recommended behaviors ranged from 45.4% to 48.3%. Finally, the average number of behaviors that Americans participate in was only 2.6.
Eric M. Hecht, MD, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and author on the study says there is not an easy way for healthcare providers to encourage patients to increase their participation in healthy behaviors. Dr. Hecht also recommends that physicians focus not just on single behaviors such as smoking, but on the total number of healthy behaviors.
Further, Dr. Hecht says:
“The data may have relevance toward the current pandemic where underlying health has an impact regarding case fatality rates.” “Individuals vulnerable to COVID-19 include those with obesity, smokers, and illnesses tied to failure to perform healthy behaviors.”