Healthy People

In December 2010 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled Healthy People 2020, the nation’s new 10-year goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention.

Healthy People, active for the last 30 years, is designed to improve the quality of the nation’s health by providing a framework for public health and disease prevention priorities and actions. According to Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, "Healthy People is the nation’s roadmap and compass for better health, providing our society a vision for improving both the quantity and quality of life for all Americans."

Healthy People exists to:

  • Identify nationwide health improvement priorities.
  • Increase public awareness and understanding of the determinants of health, disease, and disability and the opportunities for progress.
  • Provide measurable objectives and goals that are applicable at the national, state, and local levels.
  • Engage multiple sectors to take actions to strengthen policies and improve practices that are driven by the best available evidence and knowledge.
  • Identify critical research, evaluation, and data collection needs.

The Healthy People 2020 policy agenda includes 42 topics with nearly 600 objectives that run the gamut of issues — from increasing the number of people with insurance to cutting use of tanning beds to increasing the proportion of quality, health-related websites. A number of new topic areas include adolescent health, LGBT health, preparedness, global health, and sleep health.

Healthy People 2020 emphasizes the concept of social determinants of health — that is, the notion that health is impacted by many social, economic, and environmental factors that extend far beyond individual biology of disease. This means that improving health requires a broad approach to promote a health-in-all-policies approach that creates environments where the healthy choice is the easy choice.

In addition to objectives focused on individuals, Healthy People 2020 emphasizes an ecological approach to disease prevention and health promotion. The 2020 policy agenda gives priority to addressing the range of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health — including goals on the development of policies at both the state and community levels that help make people’s surroundings more conducive to healthier lifestyles.

For more information about Healthy People 2020, visit


Koh, H.K. (2010, December 2). Healthy People 2020: A Roadmap for Health [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics. (2011, May 10). Healthy People. Retrieved from