The ultimate goal of the health care system is to improve and maintain people’s health and functional status. Population health goals create a bridge between public health and personal health, because population health goals are only attainable through the coordinated efforts of both systems.
The prevention and public health components of the federal law represent a fundamental shift from public health as an afterthought, subject to annual appropriations in competition with the more visible personal health services, to a core, sustained investment. In addition to the creation of the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council, which will coordinate federal strategy, the law includes a large number of grants to address topics including surveillance, public health laboratories, childhood obesity, and racial and ethnic disparities. States will need to consider how closely the criteria for these grants match the priorities and programs in the state.
On the personal health side, the law expands coverage for preventive services, promotes employee wellness programs, and increases payment levels to primary care providers through Medicaid.
The combination of expanded insurance coverage, appropriate benefit design, improved data collection and monitoring, and the increased investment in public health make it realistic for a state to pursue targeted and substantial improvements in the health of the population.