The newest edition of Healthy People, officially released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on December 2nd, sets “ambitious, yet achievable” national public health priorities for the next decade. Healthy People establishes national benchmarks and identifies relevant data sources, allowing health professionals and the government to monitor progress over time.
One of the 42 topic areas included in Healthy People 2020 is Health Communication and Health Information Technology (IT). The government recognizes health IT and health communication as an integral part of the implementation and success of the Healthy People initiative.
In addition to broad health communication objectives that include improving the health literacy of the population, the Health Communication and Health IT topic area places new emphasis on the importance of access to and usability of health IT. In fact, 7 of the 13 objectives for 2020 are related to technology, including objectives to increase:
- Use of electronic personal health management tools
- Access to the Internet
- The number of quality, health-related Websites
- The accessibility and usability of online health information
- The number of medical practices using electronic health records
This edition of Healthy People doesn’t just talk the talk. Healthy People 2020 is available entirely online (in contrast, Healthy People 2010 was published as two telephone books of information), allowing users to easily search for objectives and linking them to relevant evidence-based resources. The development of HealthyPeople.gov incorporated best practices in delivering online health information, including extensive user testing.
Kudos to HHS for continuing to highlight health communication and health IT as a national priority and for recognizing the many ways health communication and health IT can positively impact public health, health care, and health equity.
Full disclosure: CommunicateHealth was involved in the development of the new, more user-friendly HealthyPeople.gov site.