This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 23, 2014.
Over the past few years more Americans have been getting vaccines and cancer screenings and meeting exercise guidelines. But we’re still about as obese as we were in 2010 – plus, adults binge-drink just as often and teens smoke just as much.
And these days, fewer of us have clean teeth.
The findings come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Healthy People 2020 initiative, which set health, fitness and nutrition goals for the U.S. population in 2010. This month the department released a status report on the first third of the 10-year initiative.
The report showed that Americans have made progress on, or even surpassed, the goals for 14 of 26 health indicators. But we’ve been stagnant on eight others and we’ve actually gotten worse in three areas: suicides, teens with severe depression and people getting dental care. There was no updated data on one indicator – whether women who have had sex have received reproductive health care in the previous year.
The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to offer dental coverage for children and to cover mental health and substance abuse care for all patients, which should improve some health metrics that have worsened in recent years, said Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Some of the Healthy People targets are ambitious. One calls for 100 percent of Americans to have health insurance by 2020. Other targets have lower hurdles: for example, a less than 2 percent increase in adults achieving weekly exercise standards and a less than 2 percent drop in teen drug and alcohol use.
Here’s where the country currently stands on a few goals:
U.S. adults who meet federal guidelines for exercise. The guidelines call for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. The current rate exceeds the Healthy People 2020 goal of 20.1 percent.
Americans who visited the dentist in the past year, according to the most recent data, from 2011. This rate is down from 44.5 percent in 2007 and well short of the 49 percent 2020 goal.
U.S. adults who are obese. That percentage hasn’t changed significantly in recent years and it’s well above the 30.5 percent 2020 target. But Koh says the plateau is something of a victory after decades of rising rates.
People under age 65 who need to have health insurance by 2020 to meet the initiative’s goal. In 2012, 83.1 percent of people had coverage. Koh says this rate already has increased as a result of the Affordable Care Act.