Promoting Health for Adults

CDC works to help adults adopt healthy habits and get preventive services.

diverse group of adults

Chronic diseases—such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes—are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. They are also leading drivers of the nation’s $3.3 trillion in annual health care costs.

Many chronic diseases are caused by a short list of risk behaviors: tobacco use, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol use. CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion works to improve health for adults by:

  • Helping smokers quit and promoting smokefree public spaces.
  • Increasing access to healthy foods and physical activity opportunities.
  • Promoting lifestyle change and disease self-management programs.
  • Promoting women’s reproductive health.
  • Promoting clinical preventive services.
  • Promoting oral health through community water fluoridation.
  • Promoting healthy sleep.

Helping Smokers Quit and Supporting Comprehensive Programs

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. As of 2018, about 34 million US adults smoke cigarettes, and every day, about 1,600 young people under 18 try their first cigarette. In addition, 58 million nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke every year.

CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health focuses on motivating US adults who smoke to try to quit through its Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) campaign. Tips features real people—not actors—who are living with serious health conditions caused by smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. It connects people who smoke with resources to help them quit, including 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

CDC also funds comprehensive tobacco control activities nationwide through the National Tobacco Control Program to:

  • Prevent young people from starting to smoke.
  • Promote quitting among adults and young people.
  • Reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Identify and eliminate tobacco-related disparities.
In the United States:
gravestones engraved with RIP

1 in 3 DEATHS

each year are from heart
disease, stroke, or other
cardiovascular diseases.
crowd of people


smoke cigarettes.
person standing on a scale


are overweight or
have obesity.

Increasing Access to Healthy Foods and Physical Activity Opportunities

man and girl cutting vegetables

A healthy diet and regular physical activity can help prevent weight gain, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. But only 1 in 10 US adults eats enough fruits or vegetables. Nine in 10 Americans consume more than the recommended amount of sodium. In addition, only half of adults get enough physical activity, and 72% are overweight or have obesity.

CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity develops and shares evidence-based approaches that help make healthy living easier for everyone. CDC works with states, communities, and national partners to help increase healthy food options where people live, learn, work, and play. CDC also partners with state and local governments to promote improvements in community design—such as sidewalks and parks—that make physical activity safer and more convenient for people of all ages and abilities.

Promoting Lifestyle Change and Disease Management Programs

Family holding hands and walking

People who are at high risk of developing a chronic disease or who already have a chronic disease can participate in CDC-approved programs that help them reduce their risk or keep their disease under control. Participants in these programs can learn and practice healthy behaviors with guidance and coaching from trained leaders.

CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), for example,  is a public-private partnership working to build a nationwide system to deliver an affordable, evidence-based lifestyle change program proven to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Participants in the lifestyle change program learn to make healthy food choices, be more physically active, and find ways to cope with problems and stress. These lifestyle changes can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58% (71% for those over 60). The program is delivered in person, online, by distance learning, and through a combination of these formats.

People with chronic diseases can also take part in self-management education (SME) programs to learn how to take care of themselves and reduce symptoms. They may learn how to get more physical activity and eat healthy, how to take medicine and work with their doctor, and how to deal with fatigue and stress.

CDC promotes SME programs for arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, epilepsy, and heart disease.

Promoting Women’s Reproductive Health

Mother holding baby

Chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity compromise women’s health and can put them at higher risk of pregnancy complications and infertility.

CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health works with partners to improve preconception health, pregnancy care, and infant health by monitoring outcomes, promoting quality clinical services, and conducting research. Health care providers and women can work together to prevent and control chronic conditions both before and during pregnancy, which may improve a woman’s chances of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

CDC also tracks the experiences of women before, during, and after pregnancy and collects information on pregnancy-related deaths, through surveillance systems such as the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System and the Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. Data collected are used to improve all aspects of pregnancy.

Promoting Clinical Preventive Services

A doctor and patient

Getting good medical care that finds problems early and treats them effectively is an essential part of staying healthy. CDC works with public health partners and health care systems to improve the delivery of clinical preventive services, such as using electronic health records to monitor patient care and adding community health workers to health care teams.

CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention supports programs across the country to help millions of Americans control their high blood pressure and reduce other cardiovascular disease risk factors. For example, the WISEWOMAN (Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for WOMen Across the Nation) program works to reduce heart disease and stroke risk factors for low-income women aged 40 to 64 who have little or no health insurance.

Participants receive preventive health services such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes screenings. They are counseled about their risk of heart disease and stroke and referred to lifestyle change programs and other community resources that can help them control their blood pressure, eat a healthier diet, be physically active, and quit smoking.

CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control works with national organizations and state and local health agencies to help Americans lower their cancer risk by increasing the use of effective cancer prevention strategies and screening tests. Screening tests can help prevent colorectal and cervical cancers and find colorectal, cervical, and breast cancers early, when treatment works best.

CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program funds 19 states, 8 universities, 2 tribal organizations, and 6 other organizations to increase colon cancer screening rates among men and women aged 50 and older. CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program funds programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 6 US territories, and 13 American Indian/Alaska Native tribes or tribal organizations to provide access to breast and cervical cancer screening for low-income women with little or no health insurance.

Promoting Community Water Fluoridation

A woman pouring herself a glass of water from faucet.

The independent, nonfederal Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends water fluoridation as an effective intervention for reducing cavities for entire communities. Even with the widespread use of products with added fluoride, like toothpaste, studies have found that people living in communities with water fluoridation have 25% fewer cavities than those living in communities without fluoridation.

CDC’s Division of Oral Health works with state and national partners to improve water fluoridation quality by training state drinking water system engineers, as well as oral health and other public health staff. State officials and residents can access water fluoridation information through several web-based tools.

Promoting Better Sleep

A man sleeping in his bed

Adults should get at least 7 hours a night of sleep, but one-third of US adults report that they usually get less. Not getting enough sleep is linked with many chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to motor vehicle crashes and mistakes at work.

CDC’s Sleep and Sleep Disorders Program in the Division of Population Health works to increase awareness about the need for good sleep and how to get enough.

Page last reviewed: January 5, 2021