You Can Help Improve the Health of America: Healthy People 2020

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is inviting people to submit comments and suggestions as part of the collaborative process for Healthy People 2020. Healthy People is consortium of diverse, motivated and dedicated agencies and organizations committed to working together to help achieve health goals and objectives for the nation. As a national initiative, Healthy People 2020’s success depends on public input.

Healthy People 2020

Every 10 years, the HHS leverages scientific insights and lessons learned from the past decade, along with knowledge of new and emerging issues, data, trends and innovations to set the nation’s health priorities. In 2007 and 2008, the Healthy People 2020 framework was established, consisting of the vision, mission and overarching goals. In 2009, specific objectives and strategies to achieve them were developed. This month, the HHS is requesting public comments on the draft set of proposed objectives for Healthy People 2020. You are invited to comment on the proposed objectives and topic areas and suggest additional objectives and/or topic areas that you feel are missing.

There are 38 topic areas available for review. Some of the areas that garnered our attention included:

  • Cancer: new or modified objectives include (1) an increase in the proportion of cancer survivors who report physical health-related quality of life similar to the general population, (2) an increase in the proportion of men who have discussed with their healthcare provider whether or not to have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to screen for prostate cancer, and (3) an increase in the proportion of women aged 40 years and older who have received a breast cancer screening based on the most recent guidelines.

  • Heart Disease and Stroke: new or modified objectives include (1) an increase in the proportion of adults aged 20 years and older who are aware of and respond to early warning symptoms and signs of a heart attack or stroke, (2) a reduction in the proportion of persons in the population with hypertension, and (3) a reduction in the a reduction of the incidence rates for heart disease and stroke.

  • Genomics: new objectives are (1) to increase the proportion of persons with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer who receive genetic testing to identify Lynch syndrome (or familial colorectal cancer syndromes) and (2) to increase the proportion of women with a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer who receive genetic counseling.

    I’m surprised that there are only two objectives for genomics! In ten years, genetic testing should be a first stage clinical assessment tool to diagnose disease and inform clinical decision making.

  • Health Communication and IT: new or modified objectives include (1) an improvement in the health literacy of the population, (2) an increase in the proportion of quality, health-related Web sites, (3) an increase in the proportion of persons who use electronic medical records, and (4) an increase the proportion of providers who use health information technology to improve individual and population health.

Your input can make a difference — participation will shape Healthy People 2020, providing a framework to address risk factors and determinants of health and the diseases and conditions that affect our communities.

Comments may be submitted in writing either via the public comment website at or by emailing Comments will be accepted through December 31, 2009.

Healthy People

Healthy People has set and monitored national health objectives since 1979 to meet a broad range of health needs, encourage collaborations across sectors, guide individuals toward making informed health decisions, and measure the impact of prevention activity. The Healthy People process aims to be inclusive and its strength is directly tied to collaboration. Since its inception, Healthy People has become a broad-based, public engagement initiative with thousands of citizens helping to shape it at every step along the way.

For more information and to stay updated:

Subscribe to the Healthy People listserv for the latest information on Healthy People 2020 and to receive e-mail notices of related news, events, publications and more, or join the Healthy People Consortium and become an active supporter of Healthy People.

About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.