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Medicine Initiative: “Healthy People 2020” Essay

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Updated: Jun 29th, 2020


Lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, consuming unhealthy diets and physical inactivity constitute some of the most important modifiable risk factors for many chronic diseases, among them cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes (Hjarnoe & Leppin, 2013). Available scholarship demonstrates that these health-related behaviors have substantial consequences on mortality and morbidity of older adults particularly in the developed world (Ferrini & Ferrini, 2012; Jepson, Harris, Platt, & Tannahill, 2010), and that lack of knowledge on how to deal with the health risk behaviors is to blame for much of the burden of disease worldwide (Diepeveen, Ling, Suhrcke, Roland, & Marteau, 2013).

Various initiatives have been commenced to trigger health behavior change among the United States population and address the arising health challenges. This paper analyzes one such initiative referred to as Healthy People 2020, with the view to discussing how it has improved the health of older adults and what needs to be done to make it more effective.

Initiative: Origin and Components

The history of Healthy People initiative can be traced back to 1979 when the first set of national targets for health was released with the view to improving the health of people living in the United States by establishing benchmarks and monitoring progress to guide communities and individuals toward making informed and proactive health decisions (Johnson, 2011). However, Healthy People 2020 was released in December 2010 after the expiry and evaluation of Healthy People 2010.

The stated mission of Healthy People 2020 is to identify nationwide health enhancement priorities by, among other things, “increasing public awareness of determinants of health, disease, and disability; providing measurable goals and objectives to determine progress in attaining the health improvement priorities, engaging multiple sectors to improve practices based on evidence and knowledge; and identifying critical research, evaluation, and data collection” (Meadows-Oliver & Allen, 2012, p. 101).

The main components of Healthy People 2020 include the initiative’s “vision, mission, overarching goals, leading health indicators, topic areas, objectives and interventions by topic area” (Using Healthy People, 2012, p. 2). These components are mainly used to improve population health as well as enhance health promotion and disease prevention across various age groups (Johnson, 2011).

Success or Failure of the Initiative

The Healthy People 2020 initiative has an expansive topic area committed to older adults and how they can be facilitated through health promotion to not only achieve high quality longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury and premature death, but also to improve their health, function and quality of life (Healthy Aging, 2015). According to this document, the Healthy People 2020 initiative has succeeded in improving the health of older adults by undertaking health promotion activities aimed at achieving health equity, eliminating disparities, and enhancing physical activity and self-management of chronic illnesses.

Additionally, the Healthy People 2020 objectives on older adults are designed to enhance healthy outcomes for this population group by encouraging the use of preventive health services, facilitating the use of evidence-based practices in prevention and treatment, generating awareness on healthy diets and lifestyles, enhancing access to care for older adults, as well as reinforcing the population’s capability to manage chronic conditions and other long-term care needs (Johnson, 2011).

It is evidently clear that the initiative has largely succeeded in preventing chronic diseases among the elderly, who are at high risk for developing the illnesses and subsequent mortality or morbidity. Today, a substantial number of older people are able to manage their chronic illnesses more effectively as evidenced by reduced disease burden. Additionally, a higher percentage of older people in the United States are consuming healthier diets and engaging in routine physical activity due to the health promotion efforts associated with the initiative (Ferrini & Ferrini, 2012; Healthy Aging, 2015).

Lastly, the Healthy People 2020 initiative has enhanced access to comprehensive, quality healthcare services for older people with the view to ensuring that members within this group of the population are able to achieve higher quality longer lives free of mortalities related to preventable causes.

Strategy Development

Although many success stories of the initiative have been shared, there is need to address some key issues associated with older adults with the view to increasing participation in this program. Available literature demonstrates that older people are more likely to maintain their traditional health-related behaviors than younger people (Diepeveen et al., 2013), hence the need to develop a strategy that will trigger behavioral modification and change. Here, it is recommended that the Healthy People 2020 initiative should design and implement more social support interventions at the community level with the view to enhancing physical activity and reinforcing proper dietary habits among the elderly through developing, strengthening, and sustaining social networks that avail supportive relationships for behavior modification (Bowden, Shaul, & Bennett, 2004).

Additionally, the initiative needs to invest in group meetings that could be used in a community environment to discuss behavior modification strategies among the elderly. Lastly, to achieve optimal results, the strategy should entail the use of written documents of health objectives as well as community mentors with the view to offering support and providing more educational information to older persons and their caregivers (Colella & Laver, 2005).


This paper has analyzed the Healthy People 2020 initiative with the view to discussing how it has improved the health of older adults and what needs to be done to make it more effective. Although the initiative has been a success, it is evident that a strategy comprising the use of social support interventions, community-based group meetings, community mentors, and written documents of health information is critical in health promotion and disease prevention among the elderly.


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