The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recently announced plans for an initiative called Healthy People 2030.
To share some insight about this program and the important role public health workers will play in its success, Capella University faculty members Heather Alonge, PhD, and Seyra Hughes, PhD, offered their observations.
Healthy People 2030: A Framework
“Every 10 years, goals are developed to address the health of Americans,” Hughes explains. “These goals are intended to address specific areas of health and apply measures to determine how much has improved over the previous decade. They’re helpful in developing preventive health programs.”
This initiative is rooted in its first iteration, Healthy People 2010 (begun in 2000 with a 10-year scope) and the follow-on, Healthy People 2020. “In Healthy People 2010, the focus was on awareness of various health conditions and issues, as well as access to care,” says Alonge. “It included increasing awareness of what public health is and what safety is. Healthy People 2020 built on that awareness by focusing on prevention efforts.”
Healthy People 2030 will continue to build on that framework by focusing on maintaining health and wellness across a wide spectrum of factors which include access to safe drinking water and medical care; disease, disability, and injury prevention; promotion of healthy development and behaviors; and continued work to eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity.
Public Health Professionals Have a Role to Play
The initiative sets goals and identifies the stakeholders who should work toward them. “Many public health programs look to Healthy People goals when developing their strategies,” Hughes says. “For instance, there are Healthy People goals associated with obesity. These goals may become part of an intervention intended to address obesity in a particular community. Many individual programs working toward this objective can collectively impact the rate of obesity.”
Health care providers will continue to be educated and trained in this framework, and public health workers will implement education and advocacy programs to work toward measurable success.
How to Get Involved and Make an Impact
Hughes points to the need for public health professionals to stay current and informed on the initiative. “We have a responsibility to be aware of the Healthy People goals and to understand the impact of these goals on the community,” she says. “These goals change over time, and sometimes additional goals are added. Public health professionals often have a passion for a specific area in health. These goals can be used to develop programs and show improvement over time.”
Alonge agrees that public health students and professionals should continue to educate themselves about the program, and has some suggestions for ways to stay current. “Follow the Healthy People 2030 website, and keep watch. There will be lots of webinars, listserves, and conferences. It will be a multifaceted outreach program.”
For public health students not yet in the field, Alonge suggests getting involved through volunteer work (which has some additional benefits itself). “Look for nonprofits that don’t have the bandwidth to engage and lobby,” she advises. “We need to work on grassroots advocacy. Find a nonprofit that’s in your area of interest, and help them get engaged with the larger community, or advocate for them on the local or national level.”
Improving and maintaining the health of the general public is a lofty goal. That’s why initiatives like Healthy People 2030 need the support and efforts of public health professionals working together for the common good.
Learn more about Capella University’s degree and certificate programs in public health.