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Government Sets National Health Goals for 2010


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Jan. 25, 2000 (Washington) -- Amid almost blizzard-like conditions in the nation's capital on Tuesday, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Donna Shalala and U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, unveiled the nation's health goals for the upcoming decade.

"We are not satisfied with what we have done so far, but it is this dissatisfaction that drives us," they told the audience.

The goals, called 'Healthy People 2010,' are broad-reaching for a nation that only achieved about 60% of its health goals for the year 2000. Focusing on two major themes -- increasing both quality and length of life, and eliminating racial and ethnic disparities -- the goals are based on a staggering 467 objectives grouped into 28 "focus areas."

The "focus areas" are devoted to an array of diseases and conditions, while the objectives target specific interventions designed to reduce or eliminate illness, disability, and premature death. A number of these objectives have already been achieved, says Satcher, who cites the decline in cancer deaths as an example. "But we are concerned that despite these achievements, Americans have become less active and that there is a disparity in racial and ethnic progress," he says.

To address these disparities, 10 new measures were also unveiled Tuesday. With these measures, Americans can assess the overall health of the nation and that of their respective communities. The "leading health indicators" cover physical activity, overweight and obesity, tobacco use, substance abuse, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, responsible sexual behavior, and access to health care.

"These measures will help ensure that we are directing resources to the people who need them," says Shalala. The federal role will be to help communities communicate these objectives through public educational campaigns, she says. "We need to get hip," she says, because Americans already are getting the majority of their health information from popular media such as television and the Internet.

In fact, says Shalala, "about 40% of all the 'hits' on the Internet are for health purposes." In recognition of this trend, she says, HHS already has established an antismoking Web site targeted at girls aged 3-12 that receives about 1 million hits per day. The site is co-promoted by members of the U.S. women's soccer team, some of whom also attended today's launch of the government's health goals.

"It would be easier to do all these things if everyone had health insurance," admits Shalala. However, "insurance is no guarantee that people have access to services," she says. "Our position is that we can't wait. There are many things that we can do ourselves that don't require an insurance card."

Nevertheless, she confirms, President Clinton will announce in his State of the Union address a plan that would create the largest health care coverage initiative since the inception of Medicare. The plan reportedly would allow families with incomes higher than required for Medicaid eligibility -- but too low to afford private health insurance -- to enroll in the state Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The objective of Healthy People 2010 is to ensure that the nation will not need to face future declines in children's health, says Shalala. By giving communities more aggregated data, she says, America will be able to put proper focus on both the people who need attention and healthy habits that deserve publicity.

 

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