Americans Come Together for a Healthier Future

Every ten years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services takes a collaborative approach to aligning health institutions from across the country on massive health goals.  The initiative is called “Healthy People” and every decade they invite people from a broad variety of health institutions to collaborate on identifying the most important health goals for the U.S. and to set measurable targets that we can work towards to make improvements. 

The goals of the Healthy People initiative are to encourage collaboration across different sectors in healthcare, to provide greater health awareness that can impact individual behavior, and to identify national health improvement priorities with measurable goals and objectives so progress can be tracked.

I love what Healthy People stands for as it is a rare example of what our government should do: bring people together to work towards common goals and facilitate a sense of community that has citizens working together to improve the quality of life for everyone.

In recent decades the Healthy People priorities that have been identified are around increasing the length and quality of human lives by reducing rates of preventable diseases, disability, injury or other causes of premature death.  They have also had the goal to diminish the disparity in health across a variety of demographic categories including race and income status. 

They recently announced the progress report from the Healthy People 2010 goals (established in the year 2000) and it seems that progress has been made on the first goal, but not on the second.  In less than ten years, the average life expectancy in the U.S. has increased by a year and the life expectancy and quality of life have improved for people over 65.

But the average black person still lives 5 years fewer than the average white person, a disparity rate that has not moved in the past decade.  In fact, across a variety of health measurements, some of which have improved (such as cancer mortality, coronary heart disease, smoking and blood pressure control) and some of which have worsened (such as adult and child obesity) differential rates of disease across different racial categories persist.

The key takeaways from Healthy People 2010, according to Edward J. Sondik, the Director of the National Center for Health Statistics, is that progress is being made on the major goals of life quality and expectancy, but health disparities persist across the population.  He also notes that obesity remains an important challenge to monitor closely and data must be a priority to continue measuring what is working.

It is interesting to note that Healthy People 2020 appears to show a shift towards a more positive approach to health goals.  In addition to eliminating disparities and improving life span (primarily through reducing disease,) the HP2020 initiative has added the goal to create social and physical environments that promote good health (spa, anyone?) and the promotion of quality of life, health development and health behaviors across the lifespan, which sounds like a more preventative and positive approach to wellness. 

References and recommended reading:

The image for this article is from a slide in the webinar, “Health in the US—A Review of the 21st Century” featuring

Howard Koh, MD MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health
Edward J. Sondik, PhD, Director, National Center for Health Statistics
Jewel Mullen, MD, MPH, MPA, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health

where Dr. Sondik reported the results from Healthy People 2010.   Please visit

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5 Responses to Americans Come Together for a Healthier Future

  1. Marie-Josee Shaar November 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Our social and physical environments are such a large influence on our behaviors, I’m glad that they are part of the HP2020.

    I participated in the Green Spa Network Congress in October, where I was invited to speak about “Spas as Vitality Centers”. I described how the activities of spas could go beyond what is happening in the spa facilities, and extend to the promotion and facilitation of heathy habits once clients are back home. Then a massage therapist could play more actively the therapist part of his or her role, rather than focusing (almost) only on the massage part (some additional training would be required for the massage therapists, but the chance to do some counseling would give their hands a break and prolong their careers!). Likewise, if the spa isn’t a place we go to for a treatment and don’t think much about until our next appointment, but instead takes a more active part in our day-to-day lives, then just like we now say “I go to this gym”, in a few years we might also say “I belong to that spa”.

    This broader role could bring about more meaning (and hence, positive emotions, engagement, resilience) for everyone involved, because the relationships created would deepen and expand. It would also undoubtedly generate new streams of income for the spas. And how great that doing so would align with HP2020 – there might be a potential for grants, partnerships, sponsorships, etc for serious spas willing to lead the way!


  2. Jeremy McCarthy November 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    Hi MJ, I think you are right and there is a huge opportunity here for the spa industry. It also comes down to educating the consumer so they know what they could get through such a vitality center. The spa industry is in a bit of a catch 22 since bringing in insurance companies would not be good for spas nor for consumers, but being covered by insurance is a kind of de facto validation of a treatment’s effectiveness. That “broader role” you mention is a large part of the inspiration for this blog . . . that we could think of wellness in a way that goes beyond looking at the physical parts of the system as if they are isolated from emotions, meaning, etc.

  3. Charlie Wills December 7, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Agree 100% on the role the Spa should play, I find Spa Directors for the most part eiher Totally Left Brained or Whole Brained,,,The Left are almost scarey, can not understand anything other then Black and White, while the others can encompass the business aspect along with Compassion, Love, Empathy, Touch, Feelings, and open to new Ideas. My point is that we are struggling to bring the True New Spa Directors to the Forefront and the Lefties back to the accounting room to do their thing. Evolution is waiting for this New Mu of Oneness!

  4. Marie-Josee Shaar December 7, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I’m curious, Jeremy: why would insurance reimbursement not be good for spas?

    In Montreal where I’m from, insurance reimbursement for massages has led to spa treatments being less elitist, more affordable, more main stream. It reduces the little guilt that it’s a luxury treatment and makes spa users go more regularly (I’m the perfect example: used to go every 3 or 4 weeks when I lived in Montreal, and now I go maybe 3 or 4 times per year!). And it has led to an explosion in the industry – the number of spas has significantly increased and still on the rise, and they are packed on weekends! So – what’s not to love?

    Charlie – thanks for the reinforcement! I’m very interested in this topic and just starting to make it a formal part of my work, so I appreciate your comments very much.


  5. Jeremy McCarthy December 7, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    MarieJ, you are correct that there are some real advantages and benefits to insurance coverage but they do come with a cost. Without insurance, both the client and the healer co-decide what is best for the patient and the cost is determined based on the perceived value to the client and the time and expenses of the healer. Insurance companies base their decisions on what will be most profitable and that is what gets emphasized. This is why doctors spend their time on procedures rather than on prevention. I’m sure the best answer would be to have insurance coverage but in a system that truly incentivizes health rather than disease management.

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