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HHS unveils 10-year health priorities

A report lays out nearly 600 goals to prevent disease, promote healthy lifestyles and reduce health disparities.

By Carolyne Krupa — Posted Dec. 17, 2010

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Identifying and reducing health disparities will receive renewed focus by the country's public health professionals during the next decade, according to federal disease prevention and health promotion goals announced Dec. 2.

Healthy People 2020 is the latest in a series of Dept. of Health and Human Services reports issued every 10 years since 1979 to frame U.S. health priorities.

In addition to reducing health disparities, overarching goals are to create healthy environments, promote healthy behaviors for all Americans and help people live longer lives free of disease, disability and injury.

Reducing disparities requires guaranteeing that all people have access to healthy conditions where they live, work and play, said Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH, associate dean for health promotion and disease prevention at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "We need to ensure an environment within which people can be healthy," she said.

The ultimate aim is to eliminate preventable diseases, said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Seventy-five percent of national health care spending, and seven out of 10 deaths annually, are due to chronic disease.

The report includes nearly 600 objectives and is "the nation's road map and compass for better health," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH (link).

"The goal is to have each person have the opportunity to reach their highest goal of attainable health," he said.

Some issues addressed in the report for the first time include adolescent and elderly health, blood disorders, dementia, genomics, global health, sleep disorders, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health.

HHS also announced a contest challenging teams of software experts and health officials to develop user-friendly applications to allow those working on health initiatives at the local level to access, record and track data about related efforts nationwide.

Efforts spurred by the 2020 goals need to involve partnerships and be evidence-based, said Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, director of the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health and chair of the HHS Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives.

"We need to make sure we look at the evidence," he said.

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