Leading Health Indicators

The Leading Health Indicators are a select subset of 26 Healthy People 2020 objectives across 12 topics:

Access to Health Services

  • Persons with medical insurance (AHS-1.1)
  • Persons with a usual primary care provider (AHS-3)

Clinical Preventive Services

  • Adults receiving colorectal cancer screening based on the most recent guidelines (C-16)
  • Adults with hypertension whose blood pressure is under control (HDS-12)
  • Persons with diagnosed diabetes whose A1c value is greater than 9% (D-5.1)
  • Children receiving the recommended doses of DTaP, polio, MMR, Hib, HepB, varicella and PCV vaccines by age 19–35 months (IID-8)

Environmental Quality

  • Air Quality Index >100 (EH-1)
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke (TU-11.1)

Injury and Violence

  • Injury deaths (IVP-1.1)
  • Homicides (IVP-29)

Maternal Infant and Child Health

  • All Infant deaths (MICH-1.3)
  • Total preterm live births (MICH-9.1)

Mental Health

  • Suicide (MHMD-1)
  • Adolescents with a major depressive episode in the past 12 months (MHMD-4.1)

Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

  • Adults meeting aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening objectives (PA-2.4)
  • Obesity among adults (NWS-9)
  • Obesity among children and adolescents (NWS-10.4)
  • Mean daily intake of total vegetables (NWS-15.1)

Oral Health

  • Children, adolescents, and adults who visited the dentist in the past year (OH-7)

Reproductive and Sexual Health

  • Sexually active females receiving reproductive health services (FP-7.1)
  • Knowledge of serostatus among HIV-positive persons (HIV-13)

Social Determinants

  • Students graduating from high school 4 years after starting 9th grade (AH-5.1)

Substance Abuse

  • Adolescents using alcohol or illicit drugs in past 30 days (SA-13.1)
  • Binge drinking in past month—Adults (SA-14.3)


  • Adult cigarette smoking (TU-1.1)
  • Adolescent cigarette smoking in past 30 days (TU-2.2)

These objectives were chosen to communicate high-priority health issues and challenges. They address determinants of health that promote quality of life, healthy behaviors, and healthy development across all life stages. The indicators are used to assess the health of the country, facilitate collaboration across sectors, and motivate action to improve health at the national, state, and community levels.

The Leading Health Indicators were selected and organized using a “Health Determinants and Health Outcomes by Life Stages” conceptual framework. This approach was intended to draw attention to both individual and societal determinants that affect the public’s health and contribute to health disparities from infancy through old age, thereby highlighting strategic opportunities to promote health and improve quality of life for all Americans. The selection process was led by the Healthy People 2020 Federal Interagency Workgroup (FIW).  In selecting the indicators, the FIW took into consideration recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2020.

For more information on the development and framework, see development and framework website.


For midcourse status and selected findings related to the Leading Health Indicators, see leading health indicator [PDF – 4 MB].  For additional background, latest data, and selected infographics data related to the Leading Health Indicators, visit the leading health indicators website..