By Christine Kern, contributing writer
Public health leaders and cross-sector partnerships would drive improvements.
Our nation’s health needs a reboot, according to Karen DeSalvo, acting assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. In a blog post, the pair provided a new blueprint to help redesign public health strategies of the future by focusing on food and housing security, good schools and transportation, and healthcare.
Called Public Health 3.0, the roadmap places public health leaders at the helm, steering the chief health strategies for their communities and calls for cross-sector partnerships to engage employers, payers, and community stakeholders in supporting healthy populations.
One point of concern for DeSalvo and Benjamin is that, while the average lifespan of individuals in the United States has extended by 10 years since the 1950s, it has been stagnant for three years in a row and actually declined in certain parts of the nation. To that end, they write, “To truly achieve better health for everyone, we must ensure the conditions in which everyone can be healthy, and this will take more than the healthcare system. WE must address the upstream drivers of health that touch everyone, no matter where they are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age. Public health is the essential infrastructure for this work, but it needs to innovate, and in many ways, reinvent itself so that we have what it takes to ensure that the American people are healthy, ready, and competitive in this global economy.”
The Public Health 3.0 blueprint aims to build on — not replace — earlier public health efforts that saw advances in vaccines and antibiotics, laboratory science, food and water safety, and the professionalization and standardization of public health agencies, according to DeSalvo and Benjamin.
Cross-sector partnerships and innovation have already been established in many communities across the country, they explain, where they have “risen up to meet these challenges by pioneering, innovating, and transforming on the front lines to address the full range of factors that influence a person’s health — from good schools to safe environments, stable housing to transportation, economic development to access to healthy foods. In these pioneering communities, we see people across different sectors coming together to address upstream determinants and reinvent their local public health system in a strategic and evidence-based fashion.”
Other steps in the Public Health 3.0 blueprint include ensuring all public health departments are nationally accredited, giving communities access to “timely, reliable, granular-level … and actionable data,” establishing metrics to measure success of public health efforts, and creating more flexible and sustainable funding sources.
The Public Health 3.0 initiative is being led by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) and builds on the work of Healthy People 2020, encouraging collaborations across sectors and communities. In October 2016, OASH issued a white paper titled Public Health 3.0: A Call to Action to Create a 21st Century Public Health Infrastructure which provides recommendations for advancing Public Health 3.0.