While the Supreme Court continues to deliberate the future of the Affordable Care Act, health leaders are already promoting collaboration to improve the nation’s public health and primary care systems.
A first-time joint publication released this week by the American Journal of Public Health and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine describes how public health and primary medicine must overlap to maximize resources and develop healthier livelihoods.
“The Affordable Care Act is premised on the principle that ‘the health of the individual is almost inseparable from the health of the larger community. And the health of each community
and territory determines the overall health status of the nation,’” wrote Sarah Linde-Feucht, of the Health Resources and Services Administration, along with co-author Natasha Coulouris, in an editorial. “The significant investments the Affordable Care Act makes in both primary care and public health signal the opportunity to transform our health system into one that integrates the two fields, from system design to community practice.”
Four agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services sponsored this special supplement — HRSA, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health — that complements the recent Institute of Medicine study released in late March, “Primary Care and Public Health: Exploring Integration to Improve Population Health.” The online-only publication includes a guest editor from each agency working with AJPH and AJPM to select papers from among more than 125 submitted manuscripts.
In “A Call for Action on Primary Care and Public Health Integration,” Denise Koo of CDC details examples of community departments and primary care clinics collaborating in New York City, Seattle and Massachusetts; and also states how alliances between government agencies, public health and the medical community help promulgate healthy behavior and overcome financial obstacles that can otherwise prevent it.
Howard Koh of HHS stressed patient-centeredness in his editorial, co-authored by Marilyn Tavenner of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The authors state that the ACA has helped primary care physicians and other health professionals provide 25.7 million Medicare beneficiaries with new preventive benefits, and that the new federal National Prevention Strategy has set four pillars for action: creating, sustaining and recognizing communities that promote health and wellness through prevention; ensuring that prevention-focused health care and community prevention efforts are available, integrated and mutually reinforcing; supporting people in making healthy choices; and eliminating disparities and improving the quality of life for all Americans.
“We envision a day when, in addition to accountable care organizations, we will recognize accountable communities, demonstrating progress for patients and populations alike,” Koh said. “Connecting care through the clinic and the community will not only help the patients we see but also those we will never see.”