Making Government Work

Improving Americans’ Health Begins with These Three Numbers

December 25, 2013
Improving Americans’ Health Begins with These Three Numbers
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
"3-4-50" is the secret to San Diego's aggressive public health solution.

San Diego County’s Director of Health and Human Services, Nick Macchione, has spent the last five years working to turn around the region’s health problems. Disappointed with the results or pre-existing programs, he responded by bringing together a unique, diverse group of experts to transform the health conditions of communities all around the county. The aggressive ten-year plan, Live Well San Diego!, is based on the 3-4-50 public health principle. 3-4-50 represents the three major behaviors (low-quality diets, physical inactivity, and smoking) that lead to four chronic diseases (cancer, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and lung diseases), accounting for 50% of deaths worldwide. (San Diego’s rate was even higher at 57%). Live Well San Diego! is built to encourage healthy choices in the community and create policy and environmental changes in government as well. The holistic plan uses outreach to churches, businesses and schools to change the culture from within. “Sometimes simple things have great impact,” says Macchione.