Shaping a Vision for 21st Century Health Statistics. Public policy and advocacy


Congress affirmed the importance of standardized information and administrative simplification (and of the NCVHS advisory role) in provisions of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Elsewhere in the public policy arena, an important trend in the 1990s was the devolution of tax money and program responsibility to states. This devolution compounds the historic decentralization that has interfered with the building of national health statistics and therefore of informed public policy. This is especially the case with regard to consistent privacy protections and comparable information on the health status of all segments of the population. The shift to the states intensifies the need to clarify the respective health statistics roles of local, state, and federal governments so their activities can be complementary.

A striking trend in the late 20th and early 21st centuries is the upsurge of sophisticated advocacy groups intent on influencing policy. The American Association of Retired Persons, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, food safety and environmental organizations, and privacy advocates are notable examples. The media play a major role in this arena by directly supplying consumers with information (and sometimes misinformation) about health and health policy and the factors affecting them.