While in March many may no longer be focused on setting or even maintaining New Year’s resolutions, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is gearing up to release their own ‘resolutions’ for the future of our nation’s health with Healthy People 2020. With each new set of resolutions, we see new health topics addressed and learn how current programs are functioning. I was interested to learn how Healthy People has and will affect all levels of communities, from local schools to government agencies, and even individual residents.
The Healthy People program essentially sets the agenda for public and community health programming and funding. As a U.S. resident, this may influence the cost of your flu shot, the availability of healthy foods in your grocery store, the amount of time local students spend in gym class, and even the levels of pollutants permitted in the air we breathe. In addition, Healthy People objectives directly influence which aspects of public and community health receive increased funding in the decade to come.
The Healthy People movement began in 1979 when U.S. Surgeon General Julius B. Richmond published a set of nationwide goals and objectives focusing on health promotion and disease prevention (read more: http://www.healthypeople.gov/About/history.htm). Since then, every decade a panel of experts has reevaluated and reestablished standards to guide health programming and funding streams.
Healthy People objectives were purposefully set to be challenging, yet attainable. Although they were established by the federal government, these objectives are evaluated by pooling resources and data from over 190 different sources from all levels – including federal, state and local governments, and non-profit agencies of all shapes and sizes.
Healthy People centers on two overarching goals: (1) to increase quality and years of healthy life; and (2) to eliminate health disparities. In addition, goals and objectives are set in 28 different focus areas, with 10 priority areas receiving special attention and extra funding – also known as the Leading Health Indicators. For Healthy People 2010, the Leading Health Indicators included:
1. Physical Activity
2. Overweight and Obesity
3. Tobacco Use
4. Substance Abuse
5. Responsible Sexual Behavior
6. Mental Health
7. Injury and Violence
8. Environmental Quality
10. Access to Health Care
To learn more about why these areas were targeted and what programming has been established to address each, check out: http://www.healthypeople.gov/LHI/Priorities.htm
Healthy People 2020 objectives were released and open for comments during the fall of 2009. Healthy People 2020 includes goals and objectives in 11 new focus areas including: Genomics, Global Health, Health IT, Quality of Life and Well-being, and Social Determinants of Health. Some of these areas were addressed in other topic areas in the past, but several provide objectives for new and developing arenas of public health.
The Department of Health and Human Services thankfully does not just set these objectives and then hope that they’re met – they take systematic steps by evaluating progress after two and five years, which may then lead to the adjustment of programming and funding accordingly. To see progress reports from 2005 and 2008, check out: http://www.healthypeople.gov/data/PROGRVW/
Healthy People 2020 will provide a framework for future health programming – I’d encourage you to familiarize yourself with general goals and indicators, especially those in your area of expertise. Are they attainable? Are they applicable? Are they making a difference? Be sure to check out http://www.healthypeople.gov/HP2020/!