Preventing Disease Is Cheaper Then Treating it:The Healthy People 2020 Initiative

Preventing Disease Is Cheaper the Treating it:The Healthy People 2020 Initiative




In recent years, health has become an increasingly scary issue in the United States. Millions upon millions of dollars are delegated to providing health care services in an effort to combat the many illnesses American’s suffer from. Progressive health care reforms such as “Obama Care” and other initiatives work to provide health care for those who cannot afford them and make access to quality healthcare more convenient, particularly for those living off of low incomes. Unfortunately, much of the money concerning health in America seems to be more concerned with combating disease and illnesses rather than preventing them from occurring altogether.

Ultimately, investing more funds in disease prevention would be a more efficient means of improving health in America, preventing millions of American’s from needing treatment. Today, millions of Americans are suffering from preventable diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes and our children are in danger of having shorter lifespans than their parents (“Investing in America’s Health: A State-by-State Look at Public Health Funding and Key Health Facts.”). The Healthy People is a nationwide program working to promote health and disease prevention goals developed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The goals set by this particular program were originally established in 1979, and were intended to be met by the following decade.



    For the last three decades, Healthy People provides national health goals and objectives for American citizens based on scientific research. The research conducted is intended to facilitate  the public’s ability to meet these established goals within 10 years of the goals being set. Additionally, the research conducted by Healthy people also works to guide national health promotion and disease prevention programs in order to improve the quality of life for Americans in regards to health (“Healthy People,” 2013).

    Since 1979, Health People has been establishing goals and monitoring progress. The program’s newest implementation for Healthy People 2020 includes nearly 1,200 different objectives regarding 42 different topic areas designed to improve the health of families and individuals living in the United States. In general, the organization’s objectives include:

  • Identify nationwide health improvement priorities.
  • Increase public awareness and understanding of the determinants of health, disease, and disability and the opportunities for progress.
  • Provide measurable objectives and goals that are applicable at the national, State, and local levels.
  • Engage multiple sectors to take actions to strengthen policies and improve practices that are driven by the best available evidence and knowledge.
  • Identify critical research, evaluation, and data collection needs (“Healthy People,” 2013).




1979 Surgeon General’s Report, Healthy People: The Surgeon General’s Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

The history of the Healthy People initiative foundation started in 1979 with the 1979 Surgeon General’s Report on Health Promotions and Disease Prevention. In July of 1979, the publication Health People: The Surgeon General’s Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention expressed for the first time in a report that would be employed to push an agenda of improving health in the United States. This particular report established five quantifiable goals while documenting the significance of disease prevention and health promotion in contrast to the conventional emphasis on medical treatment (Health Objectives for the Nation.”).


    In 1980, an additional piece was published in relation to the Health People, “Promoting Health/Preventing Disease: Objectives for the Nation”. This particular measure established 226 measurable health objectives and methods designed to enable American citizens to achieve them. These objectives urged for improvements in health status to be met by 1990 included: risk reduction, public professional awareness, health services and protective measures, and surveillance and evaluation (“Health Objectives for the Nation.”).


The initial initiative proved to be somewhat successful as reductions in illnesses such as hypertension, childhood infectious diseases and injury prevention. Despite the above successes, many of the objectives established between 1979 and 1980 were not met. To exacerbate these shortcomings, many new public health problems emerged that needed to be addressed. Consequently, Healthy People in conjunction with the Public Health Service (PHS) began drafting another set of health objectives in 1987 that  they hoped to meet in the year 2000 (“Health Objectives for the Nation.”).


Healthy People 2000: Promoting Health/Preventing Disease: Objectives for the Nation

    In an effort to combat the emergence of new health issues in the United States the planning process for its new objectives took into account three specific factors. First off, to involve as many groups as possible in an effort to have appropriate representation across demographics. In an effort to ensure a broad representation of input the Public Health Service invited over 300 national, state and territorial health departments to help develop the objectives meant to be met by the year 2000.

Second, to set objectives addressing high risk minority population and age groups. Lastly, emphasize the ways in which citizens, the private sector and the public sector can contribute to attaining these objectives by the end of the decade (“Health Objectives for the Nation.”). Additionally, twenty five public hearings were employed to provide people and organizations with a forum to participate in the Health People’s research process via recommendations. Testimony from these forums were utilized in drafting Healthy People objectives (“Healthy Objectives for the Nation.”).

    In January of 1989, the objectives developed through the above methods were dispersed to other experts for critical review. These revisions were then sent to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion to be incorporated in the Healthy People publication “Promoting Health/Preventing Disease: Year 2000”. Over 7000 people and organizations participated in the development of this particular publication (“Health Objectives for the Nation.”).

    Although these objectives are established nationally, local and state efforts are the primary source of contributions in regards to implementing and promotion Healthy People initiatives. States support Health People activities by providing training, technical assistance, development of software products for State and local health agencies as well as providing funding for programs and activities. Periodical progress reviews are regularly provided to the Assistant Secretary for Health with a means of monitoring objectives and managing implementation of programs (“Health Objectives for the Nation.”).

Healthy People 2010: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives

Continuing their efforts, in January 2000 the Department of Health and Human Services launched Healthy People 2010. Like its predecessors, this particular initiative was also a nationwide health promotion and disease presentation agenda. Two of the major, overlapping points of emphasis were increasing the quality and years of healthy life for Americans, and eliminating health disparities across demographics by the year 2010.  The Healthy People 2010 initiative included 467 objectives designed to further improve the health of Americans during the first decade of the 21st century (“Healthy People 2000”, 2011).

Released online on October 2011, the Healthy People 2010 final review presented an assessment of the progress Americans made in regards to achieving the Healthy People 2010 objectives over the course of the decade. Additionally, a select set of objectives known as the Leading Health Indicators were developed to identify different measures of public health and encourage nationwide participation in regards to improving health in the country (“Healthy People 2000”, 2011).

Healthy People 2020


    The Healthy People initiative continued in December 2010, developing health objectives with the hopes that they can be met by the year 2020. On the above date the Department of Health and Human Services launched Healthy People 2020 emphasizing four specific goals:

  • Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death;
  • Achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups;
  • Create social and physical environments that promote good health for all; and
  • Promote quality of life, healthy development, and healthy behaviors across all  life stages (“Healthy People 2020”, 2011).

    In its broadest initiative yet, Healthy People monitors approximately 1,200 different objectives organized into 42 respective topic areas, each representing a significant public health concern. These 42 issues concerning health include:

    • HIV
    • Immunization and Infectious Disease
    • Injury and Violence Prevention
    • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health
    • Maternal, Infant, and Child Health
    • Medical Product Safety
    • Mental Health and Mental Disorders
    • Nutrition and Weight Status
    • Occupational Health
    • Oral Health
    • Physical Activity
    • Preparedness
    • Public Health Infrastructure
    • Respiratory Diseases
    • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
    • Sleep Health
    • Social Determinants of Health
    • Substance Abuse
    • Tobacco Use (“Healthy People 2020”, 2011).


At the time of its initial launch, Healthy People 2020 could only attain measurable data for 911 of their established objectives. The additional objectives were considered to be developmental due to the lack of baseline data available to monitor progress of these objectives (“Healthy People 2020”, 2011). A new application implemented for Healthy People 2020’s initiative is the ability to track and monitor data concerning a particular objective, enabling American participates to monitor progress. Additionally, data concerning past Healthy People initiatives are also available online via healthindicators.gov (“Healthy People 2020”, 2011).


    A number of states across the United States have implemented Healthy People initiatives as a guide to improve the issue of health in our country. Each participating states has an associate Healthy People Coordinator who serves as a means of communication between the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. These coordinators are also responsible for ensuring their delegated state is executing their plan in coordination with Healthy People objectives (“State and Territorial Healthy People Plans.”

Map It

    The current efforts of Healthy People have worked to combat and prevent health concerns such as tobacco use, cancer and sleep deprivation among a plethora of other topics. In an effort to encourage further participation, Healthy People 2020 has developed an accessible means of monitoring progress, objectives and programs regarding the 42 topic areas of health established by the organization. This application is known as MAP-IT (A Model for Implementing Healthy People 2020.”).

    MAP-IT is an acronym meaning mobilIze, assess, plan, implement and track. The mobilization component of MAP-IT represents the individuals and organization that care enough about health in every respective community to organize. The “A” in MAP-IT is concerned with identifying areas in which there is a concentration of individuals and families affected by poor health, and assess the ways in which resources can be utilized to address their issues. The “P” in MAP-IT is concerned with planning appropriate approaches, strategies and other actions that will work to help communities reach Healthy People 2020 objectives. Implementation, represented by the “I” in MAP-IT is concerned with the implementation of Healthy People initiatives and how they will be monitored. Lastly, the “T” in MAP-IT is concerned with participants ability to track their communities progress in relation to Health People 2020 objectives. This particular application is significantly influential in helping Healthy People reach its health goals for 2020 as it produces comprehensive and detailed plans for achieving objectives, following steps to achieve these objectives by reasonable deadlines, further allowing people conscience of Healthy People agendas to monitor progress online via Healthypeople.gov. Additionally, the site provides individuals with brief overviews concerning objectives, links to related sources and answers to frequently asked questions ( A Model for Implementing Healthy People 2020.”).

New York State’s Plan

The Prevention Agenda 2013 – 2017

One of the many states taking part in improving health through Health People initiatives is New York. With the help of Healthy People, The New York State Public Health, the Department of Health, The Health Planning Council and over 140 other unique health organizations, New York state has developed the Prevention Agenda for 2013-2017. With the help of local health departments, health care provider, community based organizations, advocacy groups, schools and employers, this particular agenda works help improve the health and quality of life of New Yorkers. In short, the Prevention Agenda serves as a guide to local health departments and hospitals in developing health assessments of communities in New York (“Summary.” Prevention Agenda 2013-2017).

The Prevention Agenda has a very optimistic objective of being the Healthiest State in the country, hoping to achieve this by addressing five specific priorities:

  • Prevent chronic diseases
  • Promote healthy and safe environments
  • Promote healthy women, infants and children
  • Promote mental health and prevent substance abuse
  • Prevent HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, vaccine-preventable diseases and healthcare associated Infections (“Summary.” Prevention Agenda 2013-2017).


    The agenda hopes to achieve the above objectives by identifying methods of intervention that have proven to be effective. Many of these efforts are concerned with identifying the ways in which different socioeconomic groups have their health influenced. To combat deficiencies in health, interventions are directed toward environmental influences, clinical interventions, the ways in which individuals in their respective communities contribute to their own poor health, and intervention in regards to health education and counseling practices (“Summary.” Prevention Agenda 2013-2017).


New York City Department Of Health and Mental Hygiene


There are a multitude of health issues that Healthy People coupled with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are working to improve and ultimately prevent. One of these issues is concerned with preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.


In an effort to achieve this objective, health departments deploy interventions in regards to counseling and education, increasing peer-led intervention in regards to HIV care, testing and other services. Furthermore, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have also launched campaigns stressing the importance of improving health literacy and patient participation. Additionally, STD intervention programs are designed to consider contributing factors such as homelessness, substance abuse and mental health in an effort to influence individuals to make healthier decisions (“Focus Area 1: Prevent HIV and STDs.”).

Literary Review

   Since its inception, the progress of Healthy People initiatives have been monitored, calculated and critics. Despite the efforts of Healthy People and a number of participating health care departments and organizations, many of the goals established by the Healthy People report have either not been met or have only minimally been achieved. According to medical publication “Medpage Today” in an article by John Gever, “HHS Launches Healthy People 2020”, Healthy People announced that the country had progressed towards achieving 71% of of 2020 health objectives. However, MedPage Today’s review of the data provided by Healthy People concluded that most of this progress was actually minimal and only a few of the established objectives had been completely achieved.

   Despite these criticisms, the article goes on to acknowledge the many successes that Healthy People interventions can take credit for including significant increases in pediatric vaccinations, reduction in emergency department visits by asthma victims and considerably significant reductions in coronary heart disease deaths (Gever, 2010).


    Ultimately, Health People programs have worked for the last three decades in an effort to improve American health. Rather than utilizing all its sources on combatting disease and illness these programs work to help prevent diseases before they manifest. To further encourage participation, Health People and other health organization have worked together to make Americans more conscience of decisions that may affect their health by developing interactive programs and applications that allow them to monitor progress and stay up to date in regards to upcoming events and activities. Despite being the wealthy most influential nation in the world, America by far consumes the most funds for health care treatment and services in the world. Healthy People is in place to prevent illness thus eliminating much of the cost our country spends treating disease.


Work Cited

  1. “Healthy People.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
  2. “Investing in America’s Health: A State-by-State Look at Public Health Funding and Key Health Facts.” – Trust for America’s Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
  3. “Health Objectives for the Nation.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
  4. “Healthy People 2010.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 08 Nov. 2011. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
  5. “Healthy People 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2014.
  6. “State and Territorial Healthy People Plans.” Healthy People 2020. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
  7. Healthy People 2020. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
  8. “Section 14. MAP-IT: A Model for Implementing Healthy People 2020.”Chapter 2. Other Models for Promoting Community Health and Development. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
  9. “Summary.” Prevention Agenda 2013-2017-. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
  10. “Focus Area 1: Prevent HIV and STDs.” Prevention Agenda 2013-17: Prevent HIV/STDs, Vaccine-Preventable Disease AndHealthcare-Associated Infections Action Plan -. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014
  11. Gever, J. (2010, December 2). HHS Launches Healthy People 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/HealthPolicy/23706


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