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Healthy People 2030: A Beacon for Addressing Health Disparities and Health Equity

Levine, Rachel L. MD

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Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: November/December 2021 - Volume 27 - Issue - p S220-S221
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000001409
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Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on our country and shed light on many underlying issues. One of the most urgent issues it has brought to the forefront is the inequities experienced by so many in our country, especially among communities of color. Racial and ethnic minority groups and economically disadvantaged persons remain at a higher risk for COVID-19 infection, death, and increased psychological distress. As we work toward long-term recovery from COVID-19, it is more important than ever to focus on these issues and work toward achieving Healthy People 2030's goal of eliminating health disparities and achieving health equity.

Healthy People 2030 is a well-positioned resource for public health officials and our partners as we work toward this goal. This important initiative is not only our nation's disease prevention and health promotion plan, but it also provides a vital framework for improving health while tackling health disparities and addressing health equity. Healthy People 2030's framework includes a vision in which all people can achieve their full potential for health and well-being across the life span and 5 overarching goals: (1) attain healthy, thriving lives and well-being free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death; (2) eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all; (3) create social, physical, and economic environments that promote attaining the full potential for health and well-being for all; (4) promote healthy development, healthy behaviors, and well-being across all life stages; and (5) engage leadership, key constituents, and the public across multiple sectors to take action and design policies that improve the health and well-being of all.

Healthy People 2030 builds on our scientific knowledge and recognizes the effect of upstream factors, including the social determinants, on health outcomes. Social determinants of health are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age—such as access to safe housing, transportation, neighborhoods, racism, discrimination, violence, education, job opportunities, access to nutritious foods and physical activity opportunities, polluted air and water, and literacy skills—that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. These social determinants of health contribute to wide health disparities and inequities. For example, people who do not have access to grocery stores with healthy foods are less likely to have good nutrition. That raises their risk of health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity—and lowers life expectancy relative to people who do have access to healthy foods.

Those invested in improving our nation's health can use the Healthy People 2030 framework to (1) identify and set health priorities, (2) assess trends using reliable data, (3) set goals and targets based on national benchmarks, and (4) find evidence-based resources to help address their health priorities. This framework can be used by all sectors across the nation—from public health professionals to policy makers to educators, and more.

One way to utilize this resource to drive action to achieve health equity can be seen at the federal level. Federal agencies use Healthy People 2030 to find objectives aligned with social determinants of health and focus grant funding opportunities in areas that can move the needle forward. This can be done at local levels as well. People can use this resource to find objectives aligned with their own priorities for their health improvement plans and find evidence-based resources to help them address these priorities.

Since 1979, Healthy People's objectives have represented the nation's most critical health priorities and used high-quality data to measure and track our progress each decade. This decade, Healthy People includes more than 350 science-based objectives with targets and data sources that we can all use to identify and close disparities gaps. The Healthy People 2030 Web site provides dynamic data tools and resources that allow users to examine data by populations, with demographic data that include race and ethnicity, and will soon offer data visualizations that highlight disparities for different populations for many of the objectives.

Eliminating health disparities will not be easy. We must come together and collaborate across all sectors in order to make progress toward achieving health equity in this country. Addressing health disparities and promoting equity for disenfranchised and marginalized populations are among the top priorities of the Biden-Harris Administration. We at the US Department of Health and Human Services are committed to this ambitious aim, and throughout the decade, Healthy People 2030 will serve as the foundation and focus for health equity, ensuring that partners throughout the nation have the tools and resources necessary to begin addressing this goal.

Initiatives such as Healthy People are critical to helping us build back stronger as a nation after the COVID-19 pandemic. We can recover as a nation by working together and building the resilience of our communities using Healthy People 2030's science-based objectives, nationally representative data, and evidence-based strategies. By addressing the social determinants of health, eliminating long-standing health disparities, and advancing health equity, a society in which all people can achieve their full potential for health and well-being will not only be the vision of Healthy People 2030—it will be a reality.

© 2021 The Author. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.