Back in 2010, a little-known initiative was undertaken by the Department of Health and Human Services. Named Healthy People 2020, the program tracks 1200 objectives organized into 42 areas of public health. The goal of the project is to measure the progress made each decade in each of the 42 areas. It is through this project that we have learned that the number of teens who smoke cigarettes is declining and that more of us are exercising.
On January 11, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published a report that details the country’s progress in meeting 26 of the 42 national health goals for the decade that ends in 2020. According to the report published first in Live Science and reported in the Huffington Post on January 13, 2017, the country has met or exceeded eight of the objectives and we have “made progress” in another eight.
But in seven of the 26 areas, there has been little or no change. Progress has stalled in the number of individuals with a primary care physician, in rates of obesity, in the number of individuals with diabetes whose blood sugar levels are under control, and the number of people who binge drink.
Of greater concern, however, are three areas in which the U.S. is actually falling behind. The first is dental health. In 2007 44% of us had been to the dentist in the previous year. In 2012, that figure had dropped to 42%.
And as we might expect, the other two areas where things are going in the wrong direction are in the areas of mental health. The first is that from 2007 to 2013, suicide rates increased from 11.3% to 12.6% and rates of depression in teens rose from 8.3% in 2008 to almost 11% in 2013.
As mental health professionals, these kinds of data always alarm us. Invariably, progress in mental health consistently lags behind other areas. And even as I read this news this morning, there is a battle raging in our nation’s capital over what role, if any, the federal government should play in making sure that all Americans have affordable AND accessible health care.
Like it or not, the Affordable Care Act (I refuse to call it Obamacare as that term is too often used derisively) seeks to put mental health coverage on a par with physical health coverage. This is a significant step in the right direction, because for years, if you had a “mental health” problem is would not be covered by the insurance company. We can only hope that whatever is left after ACA is dismantled will have provisions for millions of Americans who continue to need health (both physical and mental) coverage.
The Huffington Post article can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-report-shows-the-us-is-failing-when-it-comes-to-mental-health_us_5878ff01e4b0b3c7a7b0ea5c