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Report: Brighter Prognosis for Nation’s Health

Progress seen on more than half of the Leading Health Indicators identified in the Healthy People 2020 initiative.

By University Alliance on October 08, 2014
National Health Update Offers Positives

More adults are exercising and steering clear of tobacco products, but obesity remains a major issue for children and adults alike, according to a federal report on the nation’s health.

In recent years, progress has been made on greater than 50% of the “critical measures that are known to have major influence in reducing preventable disease and death,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported.

The report provides a status update on 10-year health goals outlined in the Healthy People 2020 initiative, which identifies 26 “high-priority” issues. These Leading Health Indicators, or LHIs, fall into categories such as physical activity, nutrition, mother and child health, and access to healthcare services.

During the first third of the decade, 14 LHIs improved or reached their 10-year target, officials said. Among those indicators:

  • 20.6% of American adults engage in recommended levels of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, up from the baseline of 18.2% and exceeding the target of 20.1%
  • 18.2% of adults smoke cigarettes, down from the baseline of 20.6% but still above the target of 12%
  • 41.3% of children ages 3 to 11 are exposed to secondhand smoke, well below the target of 47% and significantly down from the baseline of 52.2%

The report also found improvement in the nation’s infant mortality rate and in the per-capita rate of deaths caused by injury. Additionally, fewer adolescents ages 12 to 17 reported illegal drug or alcohol use.

However, obesity among adults ticked up to 35.3% from a baseline of 33.9%, the report noted. The Healthy People 2020 target is 30.5%. Among children ages 2 to 19, the obesity rate was up slightly from the baseline of 16.1% to 16.9%, with the target set at 14.5%.

Fewer people saw a dentist, with 41.8% receiving dental care within the prior 12 months. That was down from a baseline of 44.5% and short of the target of 49%.

Overall, four LHIs achieved or exceeded their 10-year goals, while 10 others improved, Health and Human Services officials reported in April 2014. Eight indicators showed “little or no discernible change” and three got worse during the decade’s first few years. Only baseline data was available for the remaining LHI.

“The Leading Health Indicators are intended to motivate action to improve the health of the whole population,” Assistant Secretary of Health Howard Koh said in a statement. 

Category: 2014 Headlines