Questions for David Huang, Health Promotion Statistics Branch Chief and Corresponding Author on “Healthy People 2020 Midcourse Review“
Q: What exactly is “Healthy People 2020”?
DH: For nearly four decades, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed and maintained national health promotion and disease prevention objectives with targets every 10 years through the Healthy People Initiative. The latest phase of the initiative, Healthy People 2020 (HP2020), is by far the largest and most far-reaching, spanning well over 1,200 measures across 42 Topic Areas and about 200 federal and non-federal data sources.
Q: How did this initiative begin?
DH: The initiative began in 1979 with the publication of the first national public health agenda in Healthy People: The Surgeon General’s Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, followed in 1980 by an HHS companion piece outlining the first set of ten-year objectives with targets in Promoting Health/Preventing Disease: Objectives for the Nation. Since then, a new iteration of national health objectives has been released by HHS every ten years, so we are now in our fourth decade – a remarkable feat for a federal initiative.
Q: What is a Midcourse Review, and what data years are examined?
DH: The “Healthy People 2020 Midcourse Review” reports the status of the objectives at the midpoint of the decade and provides a roadmap for achieving the Healthy People 2020 objectives by 2020. The term “midcourse” is used to refer to the approximate half-way point of the decade spanning 2010 to 2020. The exact year or years of both the baseline (initial) and midcourse data vary by data source and by specific objective. For example, many objectives with the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) as their data source have 2008 as the baseline year and 2014 as the midcourse year. Note that there may be more recent data available than those used in the report.
Q: What are the sources of data are used in the report?
DH: The data used in Healthy People 2020 come from about 200 data sources, sponsored by numerous entities including the federal government and private and global agencies and organizations. In each case, the sponsoring agency or organization collected data using its own methods and procedures. Therefore, data in this report vary with respect to source, method of collection, definitions, and reference period.
Q: How is the country doing at this mid-point?
DH: The country has met or exceeded more than a quarter (27.3%) of its ten-year targets for 828 trackable HP2020 objectives, which compares quite favorably to the three previous Healthy People Midcourse Reviews. One-quarter (23.9%) of its targets were improving; one-third (34.4%) had demonstrated little or no detectable change; and about fourteen percent (14.4%) were getting worse.