HHS' new 2020 health agenda spotlights prevention

HHS' newest 10-year health goals for the country, Healthy People 2020, focus on prevention.

Chronic diseases are behind 70 percent of all deaths in America and account for 75 cents of every dollar spent on health, according to HHS. "Our challenge and opportunity is to avoid preventable diseases from occurring in the first place," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

The initiative's overarching goals include attaining high quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death; and eliminating health disparities and improving the health of all groups.

According to HHS, setting goals like the Healthy People initiative, which was unveiled today, aren't just empty exercises. Preliminary analyses suggest that over the last decade, the country advanced toward or met 71 percent of its last Healthy People goals. Note to HHS: Just what percentage did the U.S. meet?

Unlike earlier versions of the goals, the 2020 set reflects an awareness that natural and man-made disasters, such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina and H1N1 flu pandemic, can happen. It calls for all-hazards preparedness for any public health emergency.

The 2020 agenda also references efforts to build the public health IT infrastructure.

HHS is issuing a related challenge to app developers to create applications for healthcare professionals who track state- and community-level health data. You can read more about the competition at the myHealthyPeople app development website.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS press release
- here's a 3-page summary of the Healthy People 2020 framework
- see HHS' updated Healthy People website
- here's the website for more information on the myHealthyPeople app development challenge