Monday, October 31, 2011

Is our healthcare system to big to fail? Thoughts from the APHA annual meeting

Yesterday the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in Washington, D.C., began in earnest. This is the time of the year that public health practitioners from all over the country gather to learn about what’s been accomplished over the previous year as well as what’s hot.

In reviewing the program, it’s clear that across the country much has been accomplished. What's also apparent is that public health has never been more important.

The United States spends more money on healthcare than any other country and our health outcomes are amongst the worst of the world’s developed countries. If the U.S. healthcare system was a stand-alone business, we would have been outsourced to Europe or Costa Rica.  The truth is that our healthcare system is too big to fail for many reasons, but mostly because the health of our nation is central to our ongoing competitiveness in the world market.

The role of public health has never been more important. Chronic diseases are what are killing us. The medical system has not been able to make significant inroads into turning this tide because our healthcare system was not built to promote health; it was built to treat illness. As such, it doesn’t have the capacity to meaningfully identify, let alone address, the social determinants of health _ examples are unhealthy housing or inadequate public transportation systems _ that perpetuate poor health outcomes.

Health reform and the Affordable Healthcare Act offer an opportunity to truly transform how this country promotes health. It’s up to us in public health to seize the opportunity to improve the health of our communities.

To learn more about the conference and what’s hot, follow along on APHA’s Annual Meeting Blog.

I am excited to be here and learn from my colleagues from around the country about what’s worked and what hasn't in their communities to improve health outcomes. I look forward to returning to Baltimore invigorated and armed with many new ideas for promoting better health for all.

Take Care, B’more.

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