Veterinary medicine represented at Healthy People 2010 conference

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"Ten years from now, Americans on the whole should enjoy substantially better health," predicts Surgeon General David Satcher, MD. Guiding the way will be Healthy People 2010, the US Department of Health and Human Services' initiative that was launched Jan 25 in Washington, DC.

Healthy People 2010

Healthy People 2010 defines the nation's health agenda through 28 focus areas, including such veterinary-related areas as food safety, environmental health, inoculations and infectious diseases, physical fitness and activity, mental health and mental disorders, and health communication.

This national agenda, a road map outlining opportunities for improvement in human health, is grounded in science, built through public consensus, and designed to measure progress. Since 1990, the AVMA has been a member of the consortium that formulated Healthy People 2010 (see JAVMA, Jan 15, 2000).

The launching of Healthy People 2010 took place at the Partnerships for Health in the New Millennium Conference. On hand were Surgeon General Satcher, HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan, and former Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary for Health Julius Richmond.

Representing the AVMA Committee on Wellness was Dr. Charles Hendrix of the Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine. Also in attendance were AVMA staff representatives Dr. Gail Golab, assistant director of the Education and Research Division, and Dr. Lyle Vogel, director of the Scientific Activities Division.

During the conference, Dr. Hendrix spoke on the role of veterinary students in originating innovative ideas in veterinary medicine that will promote human health and prevent disease in the next 10 years. Dr. Golab and Dr. Vogel prepared poster presentations titled "The Veterinarian's Role as Partner for Health" and "A Model Community Program for Dog Bite Prevention."

Healthy People 2010

Healthy People 2010 is the preventive health agenda for the nation. It is a statement of national health objectives designed to identify the most important preventable threats to health and to establish national goals to reduce these threats. Healthy People 2010 offers a simple but powerful idea: provide health promotion and disease prevention objectives in a format that enables diverse groups to combine their efforts and work as a team. It is a plan promoting better health for all and can be used by many people, states, communities, professional organizations, and groups.

During the conference, the "Leading Health Indicators" was released. This subset of objectives defines key health issues intended to motivate action and exert influences over health outcomes. These 467 objectives are the basic building blocks for community health initiatives. They will help monitor health improvements by targeting the behaviors of all US citizens and are included in the master document.

Improving the health of the nation is a long-term investment requiring the participation of all, including the leaders and members of the AVMA. Together, through the goals of Healthy People 2010, veterinarians and their health care teams can forge solutions to the diverse challenges of this new era.

For additional information about Healthy People 2010, visit

Where were the veterinarians?

With the veterinary profession striving to establish itself as an integral member of the public health community, national broad-interest meetings such as Healthy People 2010 are valuable opportunities for the profession to educate its human health care counterparts about veterinarians' contributions in key areas such as food safety, disease prevention, and health promotion.

Yet few veterinarians joined physicians, dentists, public health experts, government officials, and others in Washington, DC, to participate in the nation's health improvement and disease prevention agenda for the next 10 years. Of the approximately 1,400 attendees, only six were veterinarians, half of them AVMA representatives.

Neither was any veterinary-related organization or company represented in the conference's exhibit hall, although the American Osteopathic Association, National Dairy Council, and similar organizations participated.

According to AVMA representatives who attended the meeting, common responses to their presence were, "What are you doing here?" and "I thought veterinarians treated animals; I didn't know they really had a role in public health." As the meeting progressed and attendees had a chance to go to veterinary presentations and speak with veterinary representatives, however, they wanted to know how they could include veterinarians in their health initiatives.

Given the health care community's receptiveness, and the potential and need for veterinarians to expand into new fields as projected in the economic study, "The Current and Future Market for Veterinarians and Veterinary Medical Services in the United States," opportunities abound for veterinarians to demonstrate their importance to human well-being.

Although veterinary participation in the Healthy People 2010 meeting was deemed positive, there is a sense that veterinarians should take every chance to increase the profession's visibility and relevance at a national level.

Dr. Charles Hendrix is a member of the AVMA Committee on Wellness and associate professor of pathobiology at Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine.