The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has issued a report analyzing the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) “Healthy People 2020” initiative aimed at improving the overall health of Americans over the coming decade. According to a March 15, 2011, IOM press release, HHS asked the institute to review and recommend “leading health indicators that could sharpen the focus of the agenda,” which seeks to “identify nationwide health improvement priorities; increase public awareness and understanding of determinants of health, disease, disability, and understanding of opportunities for progress; provide measurable objectives and goals applicable at national, state, and local levels; engage multiple sectors to take actions to strengthen policies and improve practices that are driven by the best available evidence and knowledge; and identify critical needs for research evaluation and data collection.”

In the new report, IOM has updated and expanded on “10 leading health indicators that served as priorities for Healthy People 2010,” as well as singled out “12 indicators as immediate, major health concerns that should be monitored and 24 objectives that warrant priority attention in the plan’s implementation.” Among the 24 priority objectives included in the IOM framework are calls to (i) “reduce the proportion of obese children and adolescents,” (ii) “reduce consumption of calories from solid fats and added sugars by people age 2 and older,” (iii) “increase the proportion of adults who meet current federal guidelines for aerobic physical activity and for muscle-strengthening activity,” and (iv) “reduce the proportion of people engaging in binge drinking of alcoholic beverages.”

These Healthy People 2020 objectives “should prove valuable in eliciting interest and awareness among the general population; motivating diverse population groups to engage in activities that will exert a positive impact on specific indicators and, in turn, improve the overall health of the nation; and providing feedback on progress toward improving the status of specific indicators,” concludes the IOM report brief. “HHS may wish to highlight the indicators and objectives in communications to state and local health departments, use them as a guide for funding priorities in department programs, and use them as priority guides for ongoing departmental public health data collection and reporting activities.”