Stand Up

Health and Illness


What Is Health? What Is Illness?

Health and Illness

Health is the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor. Illness is an unhealthy condition of body or mind, a sickness.

Health and illness are incredibly broad categories that have seemingly endless facts, figures and, most importantly, even more opportunities to get involved and make a difference. The most important thing to keep in mind when building your own Stand Up campaign is to make sure that you are passionate about it! There are organizations and groups for every facet of health and illness imaginable, so as long as you feel a connection you can find a group to help, work with, support and get others to care about also! In this cause guide you’ll find some information and resources about cancer, HIV/ AIDS, chronic illness, health care, and childhood obesity, but another great place to seek out information is The site has multiple pages of resources and action ideas on topics from asthma to drug abuse to tanning risks. It just takes a few clicks to get inspired and begin making a difference.


HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infects cells of the immune system. Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body's ability to fend off infections and diseases. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or related cancers.

HIV can be transmitted through:

  • unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person
  • transfusions of contaminated blood
  • the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes or other sharp instruments
  • the transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding
  • HIV/AIDS is the world’s leading infectious killer. About 30 million people have died to date. An estimated 1.8 million people die every year from HIV/AIDS.

34 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide. The vast majority are in low- and middle-income countries. An estimated 2.7 million people were newly infected with the virus in 2010.

  • Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) prevents the HIV virus from multiplying in the body. If the reproduction of the HIV virus stops, then the body's immune cells are able to live longer and provide the body with protection from infections.
  • About 6.65 million HIV-positive people had access to ART in low- and middle-income countries at the end of 2010. This represents a 16-fold increase since 2003. Overall, the coverage of ART in low- and middle-income countries continued to increase and was 47% of the 14.2 million people eligible for treatment at the end of 2010.
  • An estimated 3.4 million children are living with HIV/AIDS. According to 2010 figures, most of the children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Almost 1100 children become newly infected with HIV each day. The number of children receiving ART increased from about 75 000 in 2005 to 456 000 in 2010.
  • There are over 620 organizations and services offering support for those with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. alone!

Chronic Illness

Chronic illnesses are defined as illnesses lasting more than three months. There are many types of chronic illness, from diabetes and AIDS to arthritis and persistent fatigue. Medical science has made great strides in developing effective treatments for the physical effects of these diseases, but many victims still face a staggering challenge to their mental and emotional health.

One of the biggest fears is the uncertainty associated with a chronic illness. The condition may be sporadic, lasting only a short while. Or, it could be permanent, gradually worsening over time.

Chronic illness can force many potentially stressful lifestyle changes, such as giving up cherished activities, adapting to new physical limitations and special needs, and paying for what can be expensive medications and treatment services.

Even day-to-day living may be difficult. A study of patients suffering from chronic tension headaches experienced diminished performance in their jobs and social functioning, and they were three to fifteen times more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety or mood disorder.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 states that “$650M shall be provided to carry out evidence-based clinical and community-based prevention and wellness strategies authorized by the Public Health Service Act that deliver specific, measurable health outcomes that address chronic disease rates.” The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed an initiative in response to the Act. The goal of this initiative – Communities Putting Prevention to Work – is to reduce risk factors and prevent/delay chronic disease and promote wellness in both children and adults. The initiative was launched by HHS on September 17, 2009.


Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not con¬trolled, it can result in death. Cancer is caused by both external factors (tobacco, infectious organisms, chemicals, and radiation) and internal factors (inherited mutations, hormones, immune conditions, and mutations that occur from metabolism). These causal factors may act together or in sequence to initiate or pro¬mote the development of cancer. Ten or more years often pass between exposure to external factors and detectable cancer. Cancer is treated with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy. Read below to find out more about how it is affecting your state and what kinds of cancer are the most harmful nationwide on a yearly basis.

Cancer Diagnoses by State
Leading New Cancer Cases and Deaths

Childhood Obesity

Obesity is defined as excess body fat. Because body fat is difficult to measure directly, obesity is often measured by body mass index (BMI), a common scientific way to screen for whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and snacking between meals was an occasional treat.

Today, children experience a very different lifestyle. Walks to and from school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Gym class and after-school sports have been cut; afternoons are now spent with TV, video games, and the internet. Parents are busier than ever and families eat fewer home-cooked meals. Snacking between meals is now commonplace. Childhood obesity is an epidemic that has recently gained a lot of coverage and attention on the national stage because of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative (). She has made it her mission to change the way a generation of kids grow up thinking about food and nutrition. The Partnership for a Healthier America also works with the First Lady and has additional resources that can be found at

  • Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled.
  • Nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese.
  • In African American and Hispanic communities, nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese.
  • Continuing at the same rate, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.
  • Kids today are trending toward three snacks, resulting in an additional 200 calories a day. One in five school-age children has up to six snacks a day.
  • Portion sizes are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past.
  • Beverage portions have grown as well. In the mid-1970s, the average sugar-sweetened beverage was 13.6 ounces. Today it is normal to consume 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages at a time.
  • We are now eating 31 percent more calories than we were forty years ago–including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners.
  • The average American now eats fifteen more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.
  • Eight to 18-year old adolescents spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, including, TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies.
  • Only one-third of high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity.

There are many legislative initiatives and an enormous amount of attention right now within political campaigns and the media focused on health care and other health-related issues. A single piece of legislation can make a huge difference on an issue because of the resources of the federal, state, and local government. Of course, at any given time, the legislation on an issue will change. Take the time to get educated and lobby your local representatives and businesses in favor of the policies that you believe in! Remember: good citizens make their voices heard to their elected officials.

Health Care

  • The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have a universal health care system. In 2010, the percentage of Americans without health insurance was 16.3%, or 49.9 million uninsured people.
  • Of the 83.7% of people with health insurance in 2010, coverage was 55.3% employment-based, 9.8% direct-purchase, and 31.0% government funded (Medicare, Medicaid, and Military).
  • The primary reason given for lack of health insurance coverage in 2005 was cost (more than 50%), lost job or a change in employment (24%), Medicaid benefits stopped (10%), ineligibility for family insurance coverage due to age or leaving school (8%).
  • More than 40 million adults stated that they needed but did not receive one or more of these health services (medical care, prescription medicines, mental health care, dental care, or eyeglasses) in 2005 because they could not afford it.
  • Medicaid, which accounted for 15.9% of health care coverage in 2010, is a health insurance program jointly funded by the federal and state governments to provide health care for qualifying low-income individuals.
  • Medicare, a federally funded health insurance program that covers the health care of most individuals 65 years of age and over and disabled persons, accounted for 14.5% of health care coverage in 2010.
  • Medicare operates with 3% overhead, non-profit insurance 16% overhead, and private (for-profit) insurance 26% overhead.
  • Since the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was created in 1997, the percentage of children ages 0-17 with health insurance has increased from 86% to 93%.
  • 2.5 million young adults have gained health insurance as a result of the provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows them to remain on their parents insurance plans until age 26.

Health Care Expenditures

  • Health care expenditures in the United States were nearly $2.6 trillion in 2010, an average of $8,402 per person.
  • In 2009, national health care expenditures were paid by households 28%, private businesses 21%, state and local governments 16%, and federal government 27%.
  • 75% of all health care dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions, many of which can be prevented, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.
  • Half of health care spending is used to treat just 5% of the population.
  • Since 2001, employer-sponsored health coverage for family premiums has increased by 113%.
  • The share of the economy devoted to health care has increased from 7.2% in 1970 to 17.9% in 2009 and 2010.
  • The U.S. spends substantially more on health care than other developed countries. As of 2009, health spending in the U.S. was about 90% higher than in many other industrialized countries. The most likely causes are higher prices, more readily accessible technology and greater obesity.

Infant Mortality

  • In 2005, the United States ranked 30th in infant mortality. Singapore has the lowest rate with 2.1 deaths per 1000 live births, while the United States has a rate of 6.9 deaths per 1000 live births. Infant mortality is considered an important indicator of the health of a nation.
  • Approximately 30,000 infants die in the United States each year. The infant mortality rate, which is the risk of death during the first year of life, is related to the underlying health of the mother, public health practices, socioeconomic conditions, and availability and use of appropriate health care for infants and pregnant women.
  • The main cause contributing to the high infant mortality rate in the United States is the very high percentage of preterm births. One in 8 births in the United States were born preterm, an increase of 36% since 1984.

Life Expectancy

  • Life expectancy at birth in the United States is an estimated 78.49 years, which ranks 50th in highest total life expectancy compared to other countries.
  • Lack of health insurance is associated with as many as 44,789 deaths per year in the United States.
  • People without health insurance had a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance, a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care.


  • Nearly two-thirds, or 62%, of all bankruptcy filings in the United States in 2007 were due to illness or medical bills.
  • Among the medical bankruptcy filers in 2007, most were well-educated, owned homes, employed in middle-class occupations, and three-quarters had health insurance.

Taking Action

Service/ Avodah (Avodah in Hebrew)

  • Organize/ participate in walks for a particular cause in your school or local community.
  • Plan activities for various awareness months, i.e. October- Breast Cancer Awareness Month. See a full list here.
  • Volunteer at a local children’s hospital and plan a holiday party, prom, or other fun event for the patients

Philanthropy/ Tzedakah (Tzedakah in Hebrew)

  • Create a scholarship in memory of someone important to you and fundraise to continue replenishing it
  • Donate to a local or national research organization (like any listed in this cause guide!)
65th BBG International Nsiah Emily Trotz and International Morah Ilana Avergun meet with Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz on Capitol Hill.

65th BBG International Nsiah Emily Trotz and International Morah Ilana Avergun meet with Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz on Capitol Hill.

  • Sponsor someone participating in a walk, dance marathon or other event fundraising for a good cause

Advocacy/ Tzedek (Tzedek in Hebrew)

  • There are many legislative initiatives and an enormous amount of attention right now within political campaigns and the media focused on health care and other health-related issues. A single piece of legislation can make a huge difference on an issue because of the resources of the federal, state, and local government. Of course, at any given time, the legislation on an issue will change. Take the time to get educated and lobby your local representatives and businesses in favor of the policies that you believe in! Remember: good citizens make their voices heard to their elected officials.

Jewish Perspectives

  • Shimrat HaGuf is about taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. This value, taking care of your body, is viewed as both a physical and spiritual act. The well-being of your body has to be maintained as the vessel of your soul, the repository that most closely connects us with God. Within the Jewish faith, our body is a gift from God, a divine creation that is to be respected, cherished and cared for as long as we are in this world. With awareness of Shimrat HaGuf, even the simplest activities, such as eating, walking, or washing one’s hands, become acts of holiness. If we know our bodies, and know about the dangers facing us, we are fulfilling the important value of Shimrat HaGuf, as well as making sure that we’ll be able to continue learning and leading for a long time to come.
  • Ush’martem Et Nafshotaichem – and you shall protect your health – is the obligation to protect the general health of oneself and ones society (Deuteronomy 4.15; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Book of Knowledge, Laws of De’ot, chapter 4).