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by intern Emily Stephenson

Healthy People is a government document that you probably haven’t heard about, unless you run in the public health world. But you should, because it’s an important document. Through collaboration from various government agencies as well as academics and experts, it provides:

“Science-based, 10-year national objectives for promoting health and preventing disease. Since 1979, Healthy People has set and monitored national health objectives to meet a broad range of health needs, encourage collaborations across sectors, guide individuals toward making informed health decisions, and measure the impact of our prevention activity.” (From the Healthy People website.)

The process of developing these public health objectives is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They rewrite the document every 10 years, and happen to be doing it right now. It’s a public process, so ordinary citizens like you and me can get involved.

The development process tries to maximize transparency, public input and dialogue to ensure that it is relevant to diverse public health needs. The process has successfully promoted cross-agency collaboration within the federal government, and provides a model for individual states’ and metropolitan areas’ policies. The project isn’t perfect, and as grown in size (some would say “unwieldy”) and has a long list of objectives (up to 467 in 2000, only 21% of which it achieved) that don’t have the data behind them to show progress.

That being said, now until the end of the year is the time to let the government know what its public health priorities should be for the next 10 years. The document has a very promising focus on preventative care, and there are quite a few objectives about healthy food, such as removing junk food from schools and offering more fresh produce, and increasing consumption ofwhole grains among the general population. They also aim to address food deserts, though it looks like they could use some help in this area. Sign up and let Healthy People 2020 know what you think!

Healthy People Comments (Open until December 31)