In 1979, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Healthy People program debuted in the form of a surgeon general’s report. Since then, every 10 years (starting in 1990), scientists meet to try and figure out what’s needed and what’s feasible for the good of public health.
The updated Healthy People 2020 website has a full list of objectives, along with resources to help health departments and organizations achieve those objectives.
We spoke with Carter Blakey, Acting Deputy Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), about how nongovernment organizations can get involved. “Health is very complex, there are lots of different factors,” Carter said. “It takes more than the federal government to change health.”
The Healthy People 2010 objectives were very ambitious, Carter admitted. All the goals rolled into achieving the objective of “eliminating disparities. The goals were set to be better than the best communities in the country.”
Carter said that some goals were set 1,000% above the national average. Some groups were very motivated by this and others were very discouraged because they thought the goals were impossible.
The 2020 goals are more realistic with a little bit of a stretch. “It will be interesting to see if we are able to meet more of our goals. Moving the needle takes a long time, many years.”
It’s up to States and organizations to tackle the objectives and make a real impact in their communities. While States are not required to participate in the Healthy People program, many do, and have a dedicated State Coordinator to help organize activity.
There is funding available for States, Territories, and Tribes that have an innovative plan to use Healthy People 2020 to improve a community’s health. The Healthy People Action Project proposals are due on April 1, 2011.
Beyond that specific grant, organizations can use the Healthy People benchmarks as data to support applications for grants or other funding opportunities by comparing their communities to the national average.
What goals are you most interested in tackling in the next decade? Where do you see the need to collaborate most to achieve these goals? We’d love to hear from you in our comments.