By Michael Hurwitz, LGBTEI Advocacy Committee

Understanding Healthy People 2030

Since its inception in 1979, the Healthy People program serves as a nationwide guidebook to identify objectives towards improving the health of those living in the United States.  Every ten years, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) crafts the newest edition of the Healthy People program.  The HHS takes into account expert testimony, the input of health organizations, and individual opinions to set benchmarks for the next ten years.  At this point, one may be scratching their head, asking the first question: “why should I care?” closely followed by the second question: “What do I look like, some kind of doctor?”

Unfortunately, whether it be working on ways to ban transgender people from military service or to eliminate questions asking sexual orientation and gender identity from the 2017 National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP), the current administration has demonstrated a less than enthusiastic approach towards the well-being of LGBT populations in the United States.  Yet one must not feel pressured to have health qualifications.  While the Healthy People program usually favors science-based objectives and health expertise, the program also prides itself on diverse contributions from the public. So while no, not everyone is “some kind of doctor” every person is an individual with a potential contribution towards Healthy People 2030, even if that contribution is to echo an agreement with another commentator.

Not only do these benchmarks take into consideration everyone’s input, but the goals also hold weight.  Politically, such documents build momentum towards certain efforts.  For example, in 2012 specific months focusing on Leading Health Indicators (LHI) were established to address high-priority health issues.  These LHIs measure health trends such as adult physical activity to adolescents abusing drugs or alcohol. In 2014, Healthy People published the Leading Health Indicators: Progress Update to help consolidate and track the goals of Healthy People 2020.  By highlighting these statistics and identifying both successes and failures, it becomes easier to argue towards increasing or decreasing funding and attention towards specific policies or initiatives. Achievements from previous Healthy People programs included lowering risk factors such as tobacco smoking and increasing childhood vaccines.

Healthy People 2020 also witnessed a surge in support for LGBT and elder health, in large part due to both LGBT health and Older American health becoming official topics.  Healthy People 2020 also recognized a need for enhanced data on certain sub-populations of older adults, including older LGBT Americans.  Remembering the threatened removal of the sexual orientation and gender identity questions from the NSOAAP mentioned earlier, anyone can see the cause for alarm considering the abandonment of Healthy People 2020’s stated objectives.  Everyone must remain determined to defend the progress we worked hard to attain, especially considering there still remains so much progress to work for.  When older LGBT people disproportionally face a lack of traditional sources of caregiving, are less likely to seek out healthcare due to fear of discrimination, and are more likely to be socially isolated, the last thing that LGBT elders need are to be further excluded by being eliminated from Healthy People 2030.

Currently Healthy People 2030 is in its infancy and if it follows the previous iterations it should not be completed until 2020.  However, public comments are being sought for setting the framework of the program until September 29th, 2017. Any person registered with the website can comment on a specific section of the framework or leave a general comment. The only rules to such comments are that the comments must be productive towards the current request, the comments must be suitable for publication, and comments cannot contain non-public information.  The Guidelines for Public Comments section goes more into depth should anyone have questions regarding those three stipulations.

After commenting it is advisable to follow the progress of Healthy People 2030.  Updates are announced through the twitter handle @GoHealthyPeople or the Healthy People listserv. Once again, Healthy People 2030 is a multi-year process and will undergo multiple committee meetings and revisions until its final product is introduced.  A great ally will continue to keep tabs on it to make sure Healthy People 2030 guarantees a commitment to improving the health of LGBT older adults.

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