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Department of Health and Human Services Launches Healthy People 2020

With the end of the year comes the launch of a new set of goals for the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Healthy People program. The program, which sets 10-year goals and objectives for national disease prevention and health promotion, believes that setting national targets and monitoring progress can motivate action. The overarching vision of Healthy People 2020—to attain long high quality lives across all stages of life, create environments that promote good health, and to eliminate health disparities—is tackled through forty-two topic areas that highlight issues and objectives which federal agencies will develop, monitor, and report upon.[1]
 
The Healthy People initiative began in 1979 when a Surgeon General’s report set public health targets to be reached by 1990 and since then has been revised every ten years. Healthy People 2020 is the fourth version of these goals.[2] The latest version contains several new topic areas including Adolescent Health, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health, and Social Determinants of Health. In addition, Healthy People 2020 shows a greater awareness of media’s interactive role in health. As Chief Technology Officer for HHS noted, “This milestone in disease prevention and health promotion creates an opportunity to leverage information technology to make Healthy People come alive for all Americans in their communities and workplaces.” [3] Along those lines, Healthy People 2020 encourages developers to participate in the myHealthyPeople challenge to create applications for the use of professionals working with the new health objections. [4]
 
HHS called its new goals “ambitious, yet achievable;” however, critics have pointed out that few of the targets for Healthy People 2010 were met completely.[5] In addition, some critics have expressed concern that targets for Healthy People 2020 do not go far enough. For example, in an attempt to be consistent with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy objectives, Healthy People 2020 set the same targets. However, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is a five-year plan with targets set for 2015.[6] HIV/AIDS advocates have expressed their hope that by 2020, the nation will have achieved beyond the targets outlined in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  
 
Still, Healthy People 2020 provides a positive framework for public health. Assistant Secretary for HHS Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H. believes “Healthy People is the nation’s roadmap and compass for better health, providing our society a vision for improving both the quantity and quality of life for all Americans.”[7]
 
“While Healthy People 2020 includes many positive and important goals, SIECUS encourages the Department of Health and Human Services to expand its targets for adolescents and move beyond the historically limiting topic of reproductive health,” comments Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). “Healthy People 2020 should consider including comprehensive sexuality education as an important prevention measure for reducing unintended pregnancy, HIV, and other STDs and creating better overall health outcomes. SIECUS also encourages HHS to consider including the topic of “human sexuality” in order to inspire health and human service professionals and parents to become familiar and comfortable with topics beyond abstinence, birth control, HIV/AIDS, and STDs.”
 
 


[1] Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Healthy People 2020,” November 2010, accessed 10 December 2010 <http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/TopicsObjectives2020/pdfs/HP2020_brochure.pdf>.
[2] John Gever, “HHS Launches Healthy People 2020,” MedPage Today, 2 December 2010, accessed 10 December 2010, <http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/HealthPolicy/23706>.
[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “HHS Announces the Nation’s New Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Agenda,” press release, 2 December 2010, accessed 10 December 2010 <http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/12/20101202a.html>.
[4] Ibid.
[5] John Gever, “HHS Launches Healthy People 2020.”
[6] The White House Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy, “National AIDS Strategy Federal Implementation Plan,” July 2010, accessed 10 December 2010, <http://www.aids.gov/federal-resources/policies/national-hiv-aids-strategy/nhas-implementation.pdf>; “HIV-Healthy People,” Healthy People, accessed 10 December 2010, <http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=22>.
[7] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “HHS Announces the Nation’s New Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Agenda.”

 

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