Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators: Progress Update

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The federal government has issued an interim report this month showing positive progress on Leading Health Indicators. The Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators (LHIs) are a select subset of Healthy People 2020 objectives chosen to communicate high-priority health issues and actions that can be taken to address them. There are 26 LHIs organized into 12 topics. These include Access to Health Services (e.g., number of people with insurance), Clinical Preventive Services (e.g., screening for hypertension, diabetes, colorectal cancer), Environmental Quality (exposure to second-hand smoke), Injury and Violence, Maternal-Infant-Child Health, and Mental Health (suicide rate), to name a few. On April 8, 2014, Healthy People 2020 unveiled a report highlighting the progress made within each of these LHIs through the first third of the decade.

As of March 2014, progress generally has been positive toward achieving the HP2020 targets for the 26 LHIs, with 14 indicators (53.9%) having either met their target or shown improvement:

  • 4 indicators (15.4%) have met or exceeded their Healthy People 2020 targets.
  • 10 indicators (38.5%) are improving.
  • 8 indicators (30.8%) show little or no detectable change.
  • 3 indicators (11.5%) are getting worse.
  • 1 indicator (3.8%) has only baseline data.

About Healthy People

Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. For 3 decades, Healthy People has established benchmarks and monitored progress over time in order to:

  • Encourage collaborations across communities and sectors.
  • Empower individuals toward making informed health decisions.
  • Measure the impact of prevention activities.

Click here to read more about the federal Healthy People initiative.

The Great Diseases Project: A Partnership Between Tufts Medical School and the Boston Public Schools

One of NIH’s two main initiatives going forward is workforce development. Here is a group at Tufts Med School doing wonderful work to develop comprehensive, cutting-edge biomedical curricula for 11th- and 12th-grade students in the Boston public schools. The article, by Berri Jacque PhD and colleagues, will come out in the May 2013 issue of the journal Academic Medicine. But here is a teaser to whet your appetite:

Or read the abstract here:


Medical schools, although the gatekeepers of much biomedical education and research, rarely engage formally with K–12 educators to influence curriculum content or professional development. This segregation of content experts from teachers creates a knowledge gap that limits inclusion of current biomedical science into high school curricula, affecting both public health literacy and the biomedical pipeline. The authors describe how, in 2009, scientists from Tufts Medical School and Boston public school teachers established a partnership of formal scholarly dialogue to create 11th- to 12th-grade high school curricula about critical health-related concepts, with the goal of increasing scientific literacy and influencing health-related decisions. The curricula are based on the great diseases (infectious diseases, neurological disorders, metabolic disease, and cancer). Unlike most health science curricular interventions that provide circumscribed activities, the curricula are comprehensive, each filling one full term of in-class learning and providing extensive real-time support for the teacher. In this article, the authors describe how they developed and implemented the infectious disease curriculum, and its impacts. The high school teachers and students showed robust gains in content knowledge and critical thinking skills, whereas the Tufts scientists increased their pedagogical knowledge and appreciation for health-related science communication. The results show how formal interactions between medical schools and K–12 educators can be mutually beneficial.