HEALTH REPORT CARD: Healthy People 2000 Goals Unmet
The federal government released a progress report on its Healthy People 2000 goals. Public health experts around the country give the program "mixed reviews," the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the report, cancer deaths and teen pregnancy declined, while obesity and type 2 diabetes increased. U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher added that the "nation should be proud of lowering cancer mortality, teenage pregnancy and homicide, and trimming the toll of heart disease and automobile accidents." Overall, the country met about 15% of its Healthy People 2000 goals, came closer to meeting another 45% and failed or backpedalled on an additional 15%.
Short on Strategy
Regardless of the reported success on some fronts, some health care professionals argue that the program has its weaknesses. Leiyu Shi, associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said Healthy People is "good on goals but short on strategies" for moving people to improve their health. Walter Willet, chair of Harvard's Nutrition Department argued that the U.S. has misfocused its dietary advice and said, "We've lost our momentum ... we've lost a chance to improve the types of fat people eat," referring to the overuse of saturated trans-fats instead of canola, soybean and olive oils. Other concerns regarding the report include its lack of brevity. Dr. Mark Smith, president and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation says that the information "exceed[s] what the public can absorb." Smith and other colleagues are currently working on a version of the data that will "succinctly sum up the country's health." Regardless of our "imperfect grades," James Curran, dean of public health at Emory University, notes that the report is positive because it "emphasizes prevention" in health care, whereas in the past "all the country talked about was money." One of the biggest disappointments in public health is the growth in the ranks of the uninsured, says Whitney Addington, president of the American College of Physicians and a professor at Rush Medical College. "Universal access to care" is an important issue, Satcher added, saying that it will be a priority in Healthy People 2010 (Chase, 12/3).