In December 2010 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a nationwide press release, announced its launch of Healthy People 2020. The aim of Healthy People 2020 is to establish goals for a healthier U.S. population by 2020, promote the success of the goals through initiatives, and track measurable signals from a number of data sources. The data collection and interpretation alone is a remarkable undertaking.
The premise of Healthy People 2020 is that there are a number of preventable illnesses and other avoidable factors which currently are responsible for a large number of deaths and poor health in the U.S. Through lifestyle changes, education, social programs, greater understanding of healthcare availability, and other improvements Health People 2020 seeks to achieve a number of goals during a ten year program time frame.
On healthypeople.gov the resources presented are sufficient that individuals, organizations, and even technology developers can find information, identify opportunities to be part of the Healthy People 2020 initiatives, and even learn more about how these initiatives can be turned into active efforts in communities.
More than a year into Healthy People 2020 data is also a valuable aspect of the online information. Through the Health Indicators Warehouse on healthindicators.gov data can be used in a variety of ways to answer any number of questions relative to the topics being studied. Organizations, groups, or communities that are interested in incorporating nationwide data into their own presentations will find this resource invaluable. Technology and software developers will also find access to API and SOAP based web services that can be used to populate data results needed for websites or other online applications.
Collection of data is faster than in the three previous decades during which other Healthy People programs ran. But data collection alone is not what drives changes in attitudes and health-related habits. The first step to understanding and engaging is to see the problem. One simple way to do that is to use the feature on the home page of healthypeople.gov which permits users to view the most common causes of death each year for specific age and ethnic groups. Taking a look at these statistics may be eye opening. Even among younger people there are clear signs that work needs to be done both in groups and individually to increase the length and quality of life of all people in the U.S.