Future of Public Health
All Americans are demanding an answer to the rising costs of health care that are leading to health insurance payments that the government, businesses, and individuals can no longer afford. According to Milistein (2013), there is an annual gap of 2 to 3 percent between the increase in health care spending and the growth of our gross domestic product What this means is that we have to reduce spending on things like education, infrastructure maintenance, and a whole host of other essential government programs to pay for health care. This is clearly an unsustainable situation. The only answer to reducing costs while improving the health of the population is effective prevention programs brought to life through public health departments.
U.S. public health departments are facing numerous challenges in the future, and their approach to disease prevention is exactly what our current health care system needs in order to deal with the chronic disease epidemic. In order to be successful in all their challenges, public health departments require effective leadership from top to bottom and also better funding sources in order to accomplish their vision for a healthy
America. Public health departments also need to empower the members of their workforce, in order to gain employee creativity and innovation in discovering solutions to the most pressing problems with population health. Public health leaders and their empowered followers also require the support of their communities, including the health care providers, in order to be successful in finding solutions to the major public health problems like the chronic disease epidemic.
The Affordable Care Act is about to be fully implemented, making health care reform in our country a reality. The prevention programs brought about by this new law will produce numerous opportunities for the development and implementation of various health promotion programs. Thanks to health care reform, the United States is finally realizing the necessity of keeping people free from illness and disease as long as possible. The problem seems to be how to get the entire population to better understand the importance of the chronic disease epidemic. Public health departments in America are about to assume new responsibilities in keeping the population healthy and seeking the required funding to make this vision of a healthy population a reality. This opportunity should not be squandered because of poor leadership in public health departments and lack of collaboration with other community health agencies. The core functions of public health departments – namely, assessment, policy development, and assurance – are going to assume a new importance in our reforming health care system. There will be a much greater focus on the health of the population rather than the current pattern of providing too much health care to those with insurance coverage. There will also be a greater demand for the use of epidemiology in the development of evidence-based medicine along with best practices in medicine, including health education initiatives.
Public health departments have many other responsibilities that will only grow in number and intensity as our entire health care system moves into the future. Healey and Lesneski (2011) argue that public health departments also face dealing with such significant threats as the effects of climate change on human health, the epidemic of violence facing this nation and the world, the threat of bioterrorism, and many other community and national threats to the health of the population that are just emerging. Two other areas where public health departments should play a major role are reducing medical errors, including nosocomial (hospital-acquired) outbreaks of disease, and developing evidence-based medicine, including the development of best practice models of care. The development and use of sophisticated surveillance systems should be a necessary adjunct to reducing the incidence of medical errors and nosocomial infections in health care facilities. Epidemiological studies conducted by public health departments will be very useful in helping develop evidence-based medicine along with best practices.
Many of these threats to health are producing opportunities to show leadership in the development of the collaborative, evidence-based, and population-based responses that are so very necessary for the survival and growth of our population. Our nation and in fact the world cannot afford to allow these many health threats to continue without a well- developed community response that is led by knowledgeable public health professionals.