Tuesday’s blog post explained Healthy People, a set of national health objectives established each decade to identify nationwide health improvement priorities. Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) includes a section on hearing and other sensory or communication disorders. Is your state adopting these objectives?
North Carolina, along with several other states, doesn’t regard the communication module as a priority for the 2020 plan. In 2018, states will begin looking at priorities for the 2030 Healthy People plan. Will communication sciences and disorders professionals be at the table in each state to advocate for inclusion of hearing and speech-language disorders?
Healthy People aims to increase public understanding of factors determining our health, disease and disability, as well as opportunities for progress. Our job over the next two years includes educating health care professionals about communication disorders and what can cause them—such as the damaging microvascular effects of diabetes and other chronic diseases on the ear and brain.
Healthy People also provides measurable objectives and goals applicable at national, state and local levels. The communication module offers measurable objectives and goals for children and adults. In adult hearing care, for example, the goal aims to increase the proportion of adults age 20 to 69 who received a hearing examination in the past five years from a baseline of 21.3 percent to a target of 23.4 percent.
The initiative also intends to motivate multiple sectors to take action toward strengthening policies and improving practices driven by the best available evidence and knowledge. As a result of advocacy to raise awareness of the evidence-based link between diabetes and hearing loss, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now lists hearing as a medical concern in its new edition of a patient-education diabetes workbook.
The project also identifies critical research, evaluation and data collection needs. States incorporating hearing health care in their state plans will need ways to identify, evaluate and collect data.
Audiologists who plan to participate in future Healthy People state plans should learn about the hearing goals in the HP2020 vision and hearing module. What does your state include in the HP2020 plan? Can your state association work over the next few years to educate stakeholders about hearing loss in people of all ages? Do your medical associations understand the importance of hearing for family, job and personal well-being? Educational programs designed by audiologists can inform health care professionals who advise patients with hearing health needs, such as diabetes educators, endocrinologists and primary care physicians, to deliver quality care and outcomes.
SLPs should also work with audiologists on Healthy People hearing goals, because SLPs provide services for children with hearing loss and for residents of skilled nursing facilities, 80 percent of whom experience hearing loss. SLPs play a critical role in ensuring hearing gets addressed.
Ideally, I support the development of hearing standards of care for all age groups, much like the standards of vision or foot care already approved for patients with diabetes. I believe standards of care for hearing loss co-morbid with diabetes or cardiovascular disease will give vital information to the state chronic disease programs to use in data and tracking success in reaching goals.
Kathryn Dowd, AuD, CCC-A, is an audiologist in Charlotte, North Carolina. She serves on ASHA’s Government Relations and Public Policy Board and is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 6, Hearing and Hearing Disorders: Research and Diagnostics; and 17, Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders. firstname.lastname@example.org