Government Issues Latest “Healthy People” Report

Health of people with bleeding disorders included for the first time
Author: Sarah Aldridge

Every 10 years since 1980, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a progress report on its achievement of previously set national health goals and announced new goals for the next decade. The health and well-being of people with hemophilia, von Willebrand disease and other blood disorders are included for the first time in one of the 13 new topic areas for this decade: blood disorders and blood safety. The goal, according to HHS, is to “prevent illness and disability related to blood disorders and the use of blood products.”

The latest report, “Healthy People 2010 Final Review,” issued in October 2011, assessed the decade from 2000 through 2010, and shows which of the 733 objectives were met and which ones need improvement. Of the two primary goals for that decade—increasing the lifespan and quality of life, and decreasing health disparities—only the first was achieved. The average lifespan of Americans improved by one year, from 76.8 to 77.8 years, due to lower death rates overall from breast and prostate cancer, coronary artery disease and strokes.

In addition, cholesterol levels decreased in adults during the previous decade. Smoking rates also declined, from 25% of Americans in 1998 to 21% in 2008. However, health disparities worsened for certain key groups, especially minorities, people with low incomes and those with only a high school education. These groups had higher rates of death from coronary heart disease and more exposure to tobacco smoke.

Despite the push for healthier food choices and daily exercise, obesity rates rose across all age groups. The rates jumped to nearly 55% for children ages 6-11, 64% for 12- to 19-year-olds and 48% for adults. A 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that teens with bleeding disorders are almost twice as likely to be overweight as their unaffected peers. Excess weight strains muscles and joints, and contributes to heart disease, diabetes and other complications.

The report showed the number of people under 65 with health insurance remained steady at 83%. But rates for blacks and Hispanics were lower than the national norm—81% and 69%, respectively. Further, while 76% of Americans have a primary care provider, only 73% of blacks and 65% of Hispanics do. A positive trend, though, was found in children’s immunization rates, which rose from 73% in 1998 to 78% in 2008, nearing the goal of 80% set 10 years ago.

Primary care physicians will play a vital role in helping HHS meet its 2020 goals by counseling patients about healthy behaviors.

The four primary goals for Healthy People 2020 are:

  • Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury and premature death
  • Achieve health equity and eliminate disparities
  • Create social and physical environments that promote good health for all
  • Promote quality of life, healthy development and healthy behaviors across all life stages

“Too many people are not reaching their full health potential because of preventable conditions,” said Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, HHS assistant secretary for health, in an October 2011 press release. “Given the renewed emphasis on prevention outlined in the Affordable Care Act, we have a unique opportunity to help all Americans improve both the length and quality of their lives.”

During the second decade of the 21st century, individuals with bleeding disorders can make small lifestyle changes that can reap huge benefits, such as starting an exercise program and eating low-fat, whole grain foods.