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America Gets a Mixed Message on Its Health

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Is the glass half full or half empty? When it comes to the state of the nationĺs health, the answer is both. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which issued its periodic Healthy People 2000 report on Thursday, America is on track to reach, or has actually reached, nearly 60 percent of the 300 health goals for the year 2000 that were set back in 1979. Among the good news: Targets have been met in reducing breast cancer deaths and heart disease and in improving maternal and child health; infant mortality is down and life expectancy is up.

But there is also some bad news. Heavy drinking among high school seniors and college students is up, diabetes is up, and -- perhaps most troubling -- obesity is up and the level of physical activity is down. About 35 percent of the population is overweight, as are a quarter of adolescents. "The obesity figures are one of the big shames of the report," says TIME health reporter Janice Horowitz. "They indicate that Americans have to do better in the health areas where they have control." The report suggests that the nation is doing well in many areas where we have the possibilities of medical intervention, says Horowitz, but on the matter of taking care of themselves Americans still remain low on the learning -- and doing -- curve.