The goal of Healthy People is to provide evidence-based health objectives and strategies to help empower Americans to make informed decisions. Healthy People is a program that emphasizes prevention, including lifestyle choices. The program also endeavors to eliminate disparities in health behavior and health outcomes, because risk factors are linked to issues like socio-economic class (“About Healthy People,” 2012).
Objectives are linked to public policy, too, as many of the health objectives pertain to improving community resources related to health such as improving public parks, boosting physical education in schools, and adding bicycle lanes in cities.
Included in the Healthy People program are specific ten-year objectives to improve public and personal health in America. The “Data” section of Healthy People 2020 is called Data2020. Data 2020 is an interactive tool designed to help people and health care professionals. The “Leading” section is for community leaders who wish to use the Healthy People 2020 objectives to spearhead initiatives, programs, and resources in their communities.
For example, I can use the evidence-based resources to develop a business plan to attract investors who will build a new skate park in my community so that young people can get more exercise. For inspiration, I can read about successful programs in other states.
Each program that is registered with Healthy People 2020 is tracked for its progress in meeting the stated objectives of its initiatives. Healthy People 2020 encompasses a wide variety of health topics, from HIV to occupational safety. Although several of the topics pertain directly to my family and community, two of the most important topics that apply to my social world include physical activity and nutrition/weight status.
The goal of the Healthy People physical activity category is to “improve health, fitness, and quality of life through daily physical activity,” (“Physical Activity,” 2012). According to the website, more than 80 percent of all adults and adolescents do not meet current guidelines for optimal aerobic health. Physical activity and physical fitness reduce risk factors for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression (“Physical Activity,” 2012).
Both children and adults benefit from incorporating regular exercise into their lives, which is why Healthy People supports a wide range of initiatives at the community level including making communities safer and more attractive so that more people spend time outdoors exercising.
Potential solutions to not getting enough exercise include making exercise fun through dance classes and other activities. Like exercise, healthy diets reduce the risk for many chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers (“Nutrition and Weight Status,” 2012). Diet is linked to a longer, healthier, and happier life.
Therefore, it is critical to initiate community-wide programs that encourage people to eat better. The Healthy People objectives are unique in that they recognize how public policy and environmental factors contribute to individual decision-making related to nutrition. For example, institutional settings like schools and the workplace need to have healthy food options in their dining rooms.
There are many social factors that influence dietary choices, including prior knowledge, attitudes toward nutrition, social norms, culture, and economics. Black and Hispanic Americans are at an especially high risk for developing obesity-related problems, which is why policy initiatives and programs should target these communities. Solutions to the problem of poor nutrition include offering community cooking classes and food fairs with healthy food available. Children are an especially important demographic to target for both physical activity and nutrition.
The Healthy People 2020 objectives are future-oriented, building on the ability of policy makers, community leaders, teachers, school administrators, and parents to collectively determine methods that will help children in their community improve health via increased exercise and improved diet. According to Healthy People 2020, the presence of sidewalks in a community alone can help young people and adults both opt more often for walking versus driving in a car (“Physical Activity,” 2012). T
hrough a multidisciplinary approach that considers such things as how the neighborhood is organized, what types of parks are available, environmental factors like air quality, and low traffic density, Healthy People 2020 sets objectives that are political and social in nature. Yet each person takes personal responsibility for daily health choices.
Healthy People teaches us that environmental factors plus legislative policies are necessary to improve public health in America. The solution to the health problems that plague our nation comes from each individual making healthy choices such as exercising and eating right. However, there are also social and community factors that impact health.
Access to grocery stores that carry inexpensive produce instead of access only to convenience stores is one issue. Another issue is how many bicycle lanes and parks are in the community. When the community and the government work together to create positive solutions and programs, it is likely that the future generations will develop the social norms and behaviors that stimulate health. The results of implementing healthy lifestyles include improved overall health, reduced instances of preventable diseases, and overall improved quality of life.
“About Healthy People,” (2012). Healthy People.gov. Retrieved online: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/about/default.aspx “Nutrition and Weight Status,” (2012). HealthyPeople.gov. Retrieved online: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=29 “Physical Activity,” (2012). Healthy People.gov. Retrieved online: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=33