As we implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we must devise ways to reach out and touch the lives of all Americans with new communication strategies that can facilitate personal health promotion and wellness. In this endeavor, we can learn much from the Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) initiative already underway. I and my colleague, Kimber Wukitsch, recently have described a communication strategy for HP2020 that also can be applied to the ACA. We have outlined this strategy in a recent article, “Healthy People 2020: Developing the Potential of Mobile and Digital Communication Tools to Touch the Life of Every American” (Journal of Communication in Healthcare, Volume 7, Number 1, Pp. 8-16, 2014).
For the past four decades, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has implemented the Healthy People initiative to set national health objectives. This national effort has promoted a shared vision for improving the health of all Americans in a very fragmented health care delivery system. The current HP2020 initiative being implemented by the Department’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) is based on the recognition that:
- A major shift has occurred in healthcare from a sole focus on disease care delivery also to include disease prevention and health promotion.
- Understanding has evolved that key national health objectives cannot be achieved solely by national efforts, but also must engage common action by state, county and local officials, and by citizens themselves.
- Collective recognition has grown that care should be person-centered and whole-health oriented.
These very same themes have guided the ACA and the first-ever National Prevention Strategy.
To address these changes, HP2020 has implemented a new communication strategy based in modern information technology. This strategy conceptualized a HP2020 online space (see http://www.healthypeople.gov) that would be a user-focused, “one-stop shop” for public health and health care professionals, policymakers, and community members to learn about the objectives, plan interventions, and actually implement community strategies to reach the 2020 objectives.
The HP2020 communication strategy incorporated new digital media, including building a following on LinkedIn and Twitter. At present, membership in the Healthy People LinkedIn group is more than 6,700 people, and the Healthy People Twitter account (@gohealthypeople) has nearly 50,000 followers. In addition to the growth in number of users, the success of the communication strategy also is confirmed by the consistently high customer satisfaction rankings the site receives from the E-government American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).