Healthy People 2010 prescribed a set of health objectives for the nation to achieve over the first decade of the new century. As the decade concludes, public health professionals are reflecting on whether the national health goals, and their associated objectives, have been met. Eliminating health disparities is one of two overarching goals set forth in Healthy People 2010. State and local public health departments are key stakeholders in achieving this goal. Currently, there is a move to develop a national accreditation system for governmental public health agencies in order to promote quality and performance. It is anticipated that this standards-setting program will support priority public health initiatives, such as disparity elimination. The challenge lies in the complex nature of disparities and in the wide array of social determinants that influence them. Thus, public health agencies must collaborate with important public health system partners to get at the root of disparities and make lasting impact. An emerging science, public health systems and services research (PHSSR), has the potential to inform our understanding of the public health system's contribution to disparity elimination. As this area of inquiry develops, there is hope that best organizational practices for impacting disparities will be identified and that the relationship between health disparities and various public health system characteristics will be better understood. Changing public health priorities and emerging public health issues are currently being considered in the development of a framework for Healthy People 2020. At the same time, health disparities remain. To ultimately reach the goal set forth in Health People 2010, the elimination of health disparities will continue to require broad-based public engagement and a nationwide commitment.
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