Young girl sits in doctors office and receives a bandaid on her arm from a nurse
Healthy People 2020: What the New Indicators Mean for Our Work

Healthy People 2020 indicators provide national focus on a set of health issues affecting the United States.

headshot of Pat Paluzzi

By Patricia Paluzzi, CNM, DrPH

December 1, 2011

October 31st at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting, Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health at Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), announced the leading health indicators for the next decade. Healthy People 2020 indicators provide national focus on a set of health issues affecting the United States, which will receive heavy emphasis within the public health sector over the next 10 years.

These issues are:

  • access to health services
  • clinical preventive services, environmental quality
  • injury and violence
  • maternal, infant, and child health
  • mental health
  • nutrition
  • physical activity and obesity
  • oral health (which made this list for the first time)
  • reproductive and sexual health
  • social determinants (a theme that Koh said has galvanized decision-makers)
  • substance abuse
  • tobacco

The combination of reproductive and sexual health with social determinants can mean new/renewed attention on what those of us who work with young people know

Many of these indicators are directly related to our work and present great opportunity for moving our work forward in new ways. The combination of reproductive and sexual health with social determinants can mean new/renewed attention on what those of us who work with young people know—that social determinants heavily impact any success we may have in reducing risky behaviors associated with teen pregnancy, STIs and HIV, and/or supporting teen parents and their children.

At APHA, session presenter Gail Christopher, Vice President for Programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, noted that education and closing graduation disparity gaps will be a critical focus as work moves forward. This is also very good news for those of us focused on pregnant and parenting teens. We know that education attainment among teen parents can alter a life course and provide a way out of poverty for teen parents and their children.

How will these indicators play into the work you do?

Patricia Paluzzi, CNM, DrPH, is the former President and CEO of Healthy Teen Network and has been active in the fields of reproductive, and maternal and child health for over 40 years, as a clinician, researcher, administrator, and advocate.