Public Health Council Shifts National Focus to Prevention

Article excerpt

AN UNPRECEDENTED federal plan to shift the nation from its present sick-care system to one based on prevention and wellness goes into motion this month.

With the much-anticipated release of the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy, prevention will move to the forefront of the nation's efforts to improve health.

To be released late this month by the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council--the federal body created under last year's health reform law--the strategy equips public, private and nonprofit agencies, organizations and individuals with a roadmap for reducing preventable death, disease and disability in America. Hailed by public health leaders as a historic effort toward improving the nation's health, the strategy will put a new focus on prevention, health promotion and wellness through federal policies and programs.

"With this national strategy we are, for the first time as a nation, saying that we want to be one of the healthiest nations on the planet," said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E). "The National Prevention Strategy can be thought of as the blueprint for converting our approach to health from one which is sick care to one that is well care."

In addition to creating the national strategy, the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council will provide coordination and leadership among all executive departments and agencies with respect to prevention, wellness and health promotion practices. Chaired by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, the council brings together cabinet secretaries and top directors of 17 federal departments and agencies.

"It's not just the health department that is involved now," APHA's Benjamin said. "This is really a look from the top at health in all policies--an attempt to get every part of our nation focused on health for all the places in which health intersects in our society."

With its commitment, the council provides an "extraordinary opportunity to galvanize leadership to improve health," said APHA member Michael Fraser, PhD, CEO of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs.

"First, the cross-cutting nature of its membership assures that we are breaking down the silos that traditionally limit public health actions," Fraser told The Nation's Health. "Second, they will have the opportunity to advise on how to optimize the significant resources provided through the new Prevention and Public Health Fund. This group can help assure that we link strategic priorities and measurable outcomes like reducing infant mortality to actual investments in a way we've never done before."

Also created through the health reform law, known as the Affordable Care Act, the Prevention and Public Health Fund provides for an expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health.

As part of its mandate, the council receives guidance from the public and other interested stakeholders. Additional guidance is provided through a nonfederal advisory group appointed by President Barack Obama. Announced in January, the 13-member Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health includes APHA members Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, MBA, MA, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; Jeffrey Levi, PhD, MA, executive director of Trust for America's Health; Linda Rosenstock, MD, MPH, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles; John Seffrin, PhD, MS, CEO of the American Cancer Society; and Susan Swider, PhD, MS, a professor in the College of Nursing at Rush University Medical Center. …