Healthy People 2020

ByDr. Marshall

Healthy People 2020

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

About the author

Dr. Marshall administrator

Richard Marshall earned an Ed.D. in reading and learning disabilities at West Virginia University in 1982. While completing his doctoral studies he served as an educational specialist in the Pediatric Neurology. Upon completion of his degree he became an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the WVU Medical School. After moving to Florida in 1983, he joined the faculty in the Department of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida and worked for five years in the Neonatal Developmental Follow-Up Program. In 1993, he completed a Ph.D. in School Psychology at the University of Georgia with an emphasis in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychology. Upon degree completion, he taught courses in the biological bases of behavior and neuropsychology at the University of Texas in Austin. He also served as developmental psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Austin. He and his family returned to Florida in 2001 and he once more became a faculty member at the University of South Florida. He is presently an Associate Professor in the College of Education and he is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the USF College of Medicine. In 2008, Dr. Marshall co-authored the Pediatric Behavior Rating Scale; in 2011, he co-authored The Middle School Mind: Growing Pains in Early Adolescent Brains (2011) and is currently revising the Handbook for Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child (2012). In addition to writing and a busy schedule of workshops and presentations, Dr. Marshall also maintains a private practice in Lakeland, Florida where he specializes in the assessment and treatment of children and adults with emotional, behavioral, and learning disorders; parenting; family therapy; and couples counseling. As part of that practice he maintains a daily blog and he co-hosts The Mental Breakdown Podcast (iTunes, Google Play Music, and YouTube) and the Psychreg Podcast. He has spoken to professional and community groups throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.