Healthy People 2010: How Did We Do?

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Ten years ago, the US government created a set of health objectives for the country to reach by the year 2010. For some measures, we saw definite improvement over the past decade, but for others, we have a long way to go.

The Healthy People objectives were first created in the late 1970s to set an agenda for getting Americans to live longer, healthier lives. It was also an attempt to involve the public and emphasize that many health problems are preventable.

“Healthy People 2010” is a set of disease prevention and health promotion objectives created by researchers and scientists working for the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The two overall goals of the program are to increase the quality and years of healthy life and to eliminate health disparities among different segments of the population by the year 2010.

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The objectives focus on 28 different areas, or “chapters” that include such measures as access to quality health services, environmental health, medical product safety, food safety, and immunization and infectious disease. The objectives also focus on reducing the prevalence or increasing the life expectancy of certain disease states, such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and obesity.

In 1990, about 41% of the measurable health goals were achieved. In 2000, the number dropped to 24%. For many of the goals for Healthy People 2010, the data is still being collected on whether or not those goals were achieved. A preliminary analysis by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics has estimated that it will likely fall to around 20% of goals achieved.

On a positive note, 117 of the 1000 objectives have been met and progress has been made on another 332 goals. We have improved the rate of childhood vaccinations. Workplace injuries have decreased. More states are adopting stricter no-smoking laws. Death rates from stroke, cancer, and heart disease are all dropping.

Unfortunately, some measures have not improved, and have gotten worse. There are more obese Americans now than in 2000. The goal was to reduce the number of Americans with BMI of 30 or greater to 15% or less. Today, about 34% of adults are classified as obese. More people have high blood pressure and diabetes, likely related to the weight trend. About 20% of US children have untreated tooth decay, much higher than the goal of 9%, and increased since 2000 when the rate was 16%.

Healthy People 2020 objectives are now being set. Hopefully, we will learn from past mistakes, and move forward toward changing the controllable factors that lead to disability, disease, and untimely death.

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