Friday, December 17, 2010

America's New Health Goals: Healthy People 2020

The US Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS) recently released their once-a-decade health objectives for the country, entitled Healthy People 2020. This is the fourth edition of the framework, which provides ambitious but achievable goals in a number of areas of health and health care.

Though by no means a mandate, the goals provide measurable objectives while identifying previous areas of weakness that could benefit from additional research efforts in order to reduce poor health outcomes and improve the investments we make in our health system. This decade there are a number of new metrics that reflect emerging needs for topics like genomics, healthcare-associated infections, and disaster preparedness. You can explore the list on the 2020 Topics and Objectives page.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Senate Passes Monumental Food Safety Law

Responding to several recent outbreaks and reports of questionable food safety practices this year, the Senate this week passed S. 510, The FDA Food Modernization Act. The bill passed with wide bipartisan support in a 73-25 vote, marking the largest overhaul to food safety law in over a half-century. Though the American health care system rates poorly on numerous factors in a global comparison, our food safety is the gold standard in terms of public health surveillance and response and this bill will help bring these practices into the 21st century. The House needs to make a minor revenue adjustment to the bill though, meaning the bill must sent back to the Senate for a final vote before it can go the President to sign into law. Below is a summary of the bill, from the American Public Health Association (APHA):

  • Provide FDA, for the first time, with a specific statutory mandate to prevent foodborne illness.
  • Improve coordination across federal, state, and local governments and providing grants to build state and local capacity for foodborne illness detection, surveillance, testing, and response.
  • Require food processors to identify where contamination may occur in the food production process, and then requiring them to take steps to prevent the contamination.
  • Base the frequency of FDA food processing plant inspections on the risk of the product being produced, increasing the frequency of foreign inspections, and establishing, for the first time, a statutory minimum frequency for FDA inspections of domestic food processing facilities.
  • Require imported food to meet the same safety standards as food produced in the U.S.
  • Establish science-based minimum standards for safe agricultural production of fresh fruits and vegetables that pose the highest risk.
  • Providing FDA, for the first time, with mandatory recall authority.
  • Offer grants to enhance education, training, and technical assistance related to compliance with the new requirements.
  • Establish traceability requirements that strike the right balance between protecting public health and preventing any undue burden to small businesses.