New Report Documents Improvement in American’s Health

Best Rating in Two Decades for Annual Progress Review

For Release: June 10, 1999

Contact: CDC/NCHS Press Office (301) 436-7551


Healthy People 2000 Review 1998-99. 246 pp. (PHS) 99-1256. [PDF – 2.9 MB]

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today released the most recent data from the Healthy People 2000 initiative, showing continued improvement in the health of Americans during the current decade.

The report, “Healthy People 2000 Review, 1998-99,” shows that the nation is on track to reach, or has already reached, the targets for more than half its health objectives.

“As the century draws to a close, we can be proud that we have made significant strides in improving the health of Americans. Healthy People 2000 lets us measure the overall progress we have achieved in preventing disease and promoting health during this decade,” said Secretary Shalala. “These achievements are the result of a partnership effort, with more than 350 national organizations in the Healthy People coalition. We enter the new millennium as a team working together.”

The Healthy People initiative, first begun in 1979 and reformulated each decade, provides an annual review of the progress of the health of Americans during the latter part of the century. Healthy People 2000 defines the nation’s health agenda for the current decade through more than 300 objectives in disease prevention and health promotion.

Overall, 15 percent of the objectives have met their targets, including many in such diverse areas as nutrition, maternal and child health, heart disease, and mental health. Targets to reduce outbreaks of waterborne diseases and food borne infections and oral and breast cancer deaths were also met.

An additional 44 percent of the objectives are progressing on schedule towards the target, including child immunizations, breastfeeding, regular dental visits, mammography screening, and consumption of five fruits and vegetables a day. Some objectives, such as the reduction in infant mortality, are only a fraction away from their targets.

“In many ways, Americans of all ages and in every race and ethnic group have better health today than a decade ago,” said Dr. David Satcher, Assistant Secretary for Health and Surgeon General. “Yet considerable disparities remain. We should commit our nation to eliminate disparities in the next decade, for through prevention we can improve the health of all Americans.” Dr. Satcher leads the initiative to establish goals for the first decade of the next century, called Healthy People 2010, which will be launched in January 2000.

However, the report also shows that a fifth of the Healthy People objectives are moving away from their targets. Some key objectives, such as reducing the number of overweight individuals and increasing physical activity have either moved in the wrong direction or improved little. A prime example of this can be seen in the objectives related to diabetes where incidence, prevalence, complications, and mortality are all on the rise.

To complete the picture, 6 percent of the objectives showed mixed results, 3 percent had no change from the baseline figure, and 11 percent of the objectives lack sufficient data to assess progress.

“Healthy People 2000 Review, 1998-99,” groups objectives by four life stages, from infants/children, through older adults in a special chartbook. Highlights show:

Infants and Children: Infant mortality has declined steadily throughout the 1990s and the death rate for children, 1-14 years of age, has dropped by 26 percent to surpass the objective. Substantial progress in reducing drowning and motor vehicle crash deaths, and meeting the target for fire-related deaths, contributed to this success. When comparing the overall mortality rates for infants and children from the inception of the initiative in 1979 to these new data, the improvement is dramatic, with a drop of 50 percent for infants and 40 percent for children.

However, hospitalization for asthma in children has been on the rise most of the past decade and is a major cause of morbidity.

Adolescents and young adults: For those 15-24 years of age, death rates have declined substantially to meet this important year 2000 target of 85 deaths per 100,000. Since the inception of the Healthy People initiative 20 years ago the mortality rate for adolescents and young adults has dropped 26 percent. Alcohol-related motor vehicle crash deaths and suicides are down, helping to meet the objective. Students are now also less likely to engage in such risky behaviors as fighting and weapon carrying. On the other hand, after declining somewhat, heavy drinking among high school seniors has increased recently and there has been little progress on reducing heavy drinking among college students.

Adults: The death rate for the 25-64 age group has declined steadily and is near the year 2000 target. Since the beginning of the initiative in 1979, the mortality rate has dropped 31 percent for this age group. Cancer death rates are now below the year 2000 target due in great part to the drop in breast cancer and colorectal cancer death rates as well as the slowing of the rise in lung cancer death rates.

Older Adults: Life expectancy rates are up, reflecting the continuing decline in deaths from heart disease and stroke; the reduction in mortality since the inception of the initiative is 6 percent. As Americans live longer, however, more people over 70 years of age are having difficulty performing critical functions, such as dressing, bathing or getting out of bed. Although the decrease in the suicide rate for white males–the group at greatest risk–has met the year 2000 target, rates for deaths resulting from falls and motor vehicle crashes have increased over the last decade.

By identifying the most significant opportunities to improve the health of all Americans, the Healthy People process helps focus action on common goals and enables diverse groups to combine their efforts. Currently, all states and many localities use this framework to guide local health policies and programs. The report was prepared by the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More information on the results in each of these areas, data by states, and copies of the progress review can be viewed or downloaded from the NCHS Web site. For more information on the new initiative for the first decade of the new century, see Healthy People 2010.

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