HHS Leading Health Indicators: Health by Some New Numbers

Oct 31, 2011, 6:25 PM, Posted by

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a set of twelve Leading Health Indicators at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association this morning.

“The indicators help communicate high-priority health issues to the public and actions that can be taken to address them,” said Howard Koh, MD, Assistant Secretary of Health at HHS, at the briefing this morning. The indicators also give health professionals a chance to narrow their focus when it comes to the health of Americans. Healthy People 2020, which the leading indicators are linked to, contain 42 topic areas, nearly 600 objectives, and close to 1200 measures. “Through these… measures, communities can identify vital health issues and track how they are doing compared to other communities,” said Dr. Koh.

The new indicators include some of the usual, though critical, suspects including violence and injury prevention but also include two new measures that public health officials cheered at the announcement today—oral health and social determinants. The other indicators include access to health services, clinical preventive services, environmental quality, maternal, infant and child health, mental health, nutrition, physical activity and obesity, reproductive and sexual health, substance abuse and tobacco. According to HHS, preparedness was not selected because the topic is new and there’s a lack of historical data, however the agency will continue to monitor the issue to see if it should be included in the future.

The indicators were developed by HHS advisory groups and the Institute of Medicine, which released a report on leading health indicators several months ago.

Todd Park, HHS Chief Technology Officer, today announced a related app challenge at this morning’s briefing. “We’re launching a new application development challenge to bring technology innovators and public health mavens together to develop tools that can be used to help communities apply the power of the Leading Health Indicators to improve health,” said Park. The contest ends in March, and will be available at challenge.gov.

Weigh In: Do you have an idea for a leading health indicator app that would benefit communities?

>>Follow the rest of our APHA 2011 Annual Meeting Coverage here.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.