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Improving Population Health through the Intersection of Public Health, healthcare, and Everything in Between

Oct 24, 2018 06:00AM ● By Alyssa McGinnis

By Sandra Melstad

Collaboration of public health, healthcare, and diverse sectors are necessary ingredients to improving population health. Unfortunately, despite increasing healthcare costs projected to reach $5.5 billion by 2030, “health outcomes in the United States continue to fall behind other developed countries”.1 Over the past twenty years the global burden of mortality and morbidity has shifted from communicable diseases to noncommunicable diseases and associated risk factors. Specifically, rural America, which comprises a majority of the Midwest, is disproportionately affected by health outcomes due to social, economic, and environmental factors.

While healthcare was once considered the sole method to improve health, this method is only one tool to improve the health of populations and communities. Research is proving time and time again that social determinants of health (SDOH), “the structural determinants of and conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age”, are the key predictors of health outcomes.2  In short, a person’s zip code determines their health outcomes. To effectively shift the needle on health outcomes, efforts must focus on addressing these SDOH’s and achieving health equity. After all, if an individual does not know when their next meal is going to be or lacks transportation, how can they be expected to improve their health if those factors are not addressed?

Addressing population health through a public health lens is important to achieving health equity, centered on multi-sector collaboration and community engagement.  Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities and is credited with adding 25 years to life expectancy of Americans, including immunization, seat-belt use, or safer foods.3 While public health cannot alone fix population health, it can reduce the burden of disease and risk for disease in populations.

Evidence-based strategies that are proving effective and critical to moving the needle are upstream, collaborative efforts between public health and healthcare, bridging gaps to transform the health system. Data sharing across sectors, cross-sector collaboration, value-based payment models, addressing SDOH and engaging vulnerable populations, provider referrals to chronic disease management programs, and utilizing a population health approach through the community health assessment and community health improvement process have been successful to improve population health. Moreover, according to the American Public Health Association, we achieve health equity by valuing all people equally – optimizing conditions in which people live, work, learn and play.4

SLM Consulting, LLC is a public health consulting company, and values collaboration to improve population health. SLM Consulting is guided by over a decade of public health experience, focused on providing data driven public health solutions to create healthy communities and improve population health guided by prevention, research, and evidence-based public health. Visit www.slmconsultingllc.com to learn more about SLM Consulting and contact us to discuss how we can support upstream efforts to improve population health. Together, we can make a difference.

Sandra Melstad, MPH, is the CEO, SLM Consulting, LLC, in Sioux Falls.

Read more of Melstad’s insights on the intersection between healthcare and public health:

A Population Health Approach Addressing Social Determinants of Health through a Community Health Needs Assessment

A Population Health Approach: Addressing Social Determinants of Health through a Community Health Needs Assessment

SLM Consulting has key resources available to support addressing SDOH and can help facilitate a quality and comprehensive CHNA and CHIP process, guided by a population health approach. Read More » 

 

The Intersection of Public Health and Medical Care How a Public Health Consultant Can Support Bridging the Gap

The Intersection of Public Health and Medical Care: How a Public Health Consultant Can Support Bridging the Gap

Over the past twenty years the global burden of mortality and morbidity has shifted from communicable diseases to noncommunicable or chronic disease and its associated risk factors. Read More » 

References

  1. Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. (n.d.). What is the impact of chronic disease on south Dakota? Retrieved from https://www.fightchronicdisease.org/sites/default/files/download/PFCD_SD.FactSheet_FINAL1.pdf

  2. Heiman, H., & Artiga, S. (2015, November). Beyond healthcare: the role of social determinants in promoting health and health equity. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Retrieved from http://media.morehousetcc.org/RESEARCH_PROJECTS/HP/DELIVERABLES/KFF%20Brief%202015%20Beyond%20Health%20Care%20Role%20of%20Social%20Determinants.pdf

  3. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (2011, May 11). Ten Great Public Health Achievements --- United States, 2001—2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60(19);619-623. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6019a5.htm

  4. American Public Health Association. (2018). Health Equity. Retrieved from https://www.apha.org/topics-and-issues/health-equity