Leaders who want to see where their communities measure up on health and set goals for improvement should look to Healthy People 2030, which is being used by policymakers around the U.S. to drive health gains, according to speakers at APHA 2022 on Monday.

Coordinated by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Healthy People advances health improvements by setting nationwide 10-year objectives on key health issues, tracking progress and sharing best practices. State and local health workers use Healthy People objectives as benchmarks and chart plans for progress.

Healthy People 2030, launched two years ago, includes 23 Leading Health Indicators, noted Paul Reed, director of the office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The indicators are a select set of objectives on high-priority health issues and challenges. While all of Healthy People 2030’s objectives are important, the Leading Health Indicators are chosen to draw attention to those that have the highest potential for impact. Father helps daughter ride a bike.

New to the Healthy People framework is an objective for civic engagement, which is shown to improve health and well-being by empowering people to be part of the electoral process. Social determinants of health also have a greater focus in the 2030 version of Healthy People, which includes objectives that call for increasing employment among working-age people, increasing the number of children living with at least one parent working full time and reducing the proportion of people living in poverty, among others.

“Healthy People objectives may be used as a menu to options that organizations can choose from based on what best fits their population’s needs,” Reed said. 

Data continue to be added to the Healthy People website, and the improved interface offers smooth navigation, said Carter Blakey, deputy director of ODPHP. Users can create custom lists of Leading Health Indicators, objectives and other information.

In Vermont, public health officials have used the Healthy People framework to create targets specific to the health needs of state residents. Mark Levine, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, highlighted how officials engage policymakers, government and health professionals through Healthy Vermonters 2030, a state program based on the national work. 

Vermont has had many successes in building community health, but it has also experienced challenges, the state’s work has shown. For example, in 2017, about 30% of adolescents identifying as LGBTQ had created a suicide plan in Vermont, data showed. By 2019, that had risen to 37%. E-cigarette use had also increased among adolescents, from 12% in 2017 to 26% in 2019.

Despite the need for more work, Levine was optimistic about Vermont’s health and committed to the Healthy People approach.

“Our focus on equity and commitment will show up even stronger in the next decade,” Levine said.

Photo by Fernanda Reyes, iStockphoto