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HHS: Key indicators show improvement in nation’s health

Wednesday April 9, 2014
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The nation’s health is improving in more than half the critical measures known to have major influence in reducing preventable disease and death, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Healthy People 2020 represents the nation’s current 10-year goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention. A total of 26 specific measures — in categories such as access to care, maternal and child health, tobacco use, nutrition and physical activity — were identified as high-priority health issues. These “Leading Health Indicators,” if addressed appropriately, could significantly reduce major influences or threats on the public’s health that cause illness and death, according to HHS.

“The ‘Leading Health Indicators’ are intended to motivate action to improve the health of the whole population,” Howard Koh, MD, MPH, assistant secretary for health, said in a news release. The report "shows that we are doing just that.”

Koh noted that with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more improvements across these indicators should be expected.

Four indicators have met Healthy People 2020 targets: air quality index, exposure of children to secondhand smoke, the homicide rate and the percentage of adults who meet federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity.

Targets that have improved since Healthy People 2020 was issued include colorectal cancer screening, blood pressure control for adults with hypertension, vaccination rates for children, deaths from injury, rate of preterm live births, knowledge of serostatus among people with HIV, students awarded a high school diploma within four years of starting ninth grade, recent use of alcohol or illicit drugs by adolescents, and adult cigarette smoking rates.

While progress has been made across several indicators, the report highlights areas where further work is needed to improve the health of all Americans. Eleven indicators have not shown significant improvement to date.

Those 11 are percentage of people with medical insurance, percentage with a usual primary care provider, A1c values for people with diabetes, suicide rates, adolescents with major depressive episodes, obesity among adults, obesity among children and adolescents, daily vegetable intake, visits to the dentist, recent binge drinking, and recent adolescent cigarette smoking.

Only baseline data was available for one indicator: rates of reproductive health services within the past year among sexually experienced females.

Report: www.healthypeople.gov/2020/lhi/progressUpdate.aspx


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