To promote health and prevent disease, the federal Department of Health and Human Services today unveiled its Healthy People 2020 website, setting out a national health agenda for the next ten years.

The Healthy People program, active for the last 30 years, is designed to improved the quality of the nation's health through providing a framework for public health and disease prevention priorities and actions.

Our challenge and opportunity is to avoid preventable diseases from occurring in the first place, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

According to HHS, chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, are responsible for seven out of every 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75 percent of the nation's health spending. 

Many of the risk factors that contribute to the development of these diseases are preventable, Sebelius said.

Too many people are not reaching their full potential for health because of preventable conditions, said Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H.  Healthy People is the nation's roadmap and compass for better health, providing our society a vision for improving both the quantity and quality of life for all Americans.

The Healthy People initiative is grounded in the principle that setting national objectives and monitoring progress can motivate action. In just the last decade, preliminary analyses indicate that the country has either progressed toward or met 71 percent of its Healthy People targets, officials said. 

Healthy People 2020 is the product of an extensive stakeholder feedback process, from public health and prevention experts, federal, state and local government officials, a consortium of more than 2,000 organizations, and the general public.

Based on this input, a number of new topic areas are included in the new initiative, including adolescent health, Alzheimer's disease, healthcare-associated infections and sleep health.

Healthy People is also issuing a special challenge to encourage developers to create easy-to-use applications for professionals who are working with the new national health objectives and state- and community-level health data.

Visit the Healthy People 2020 website.