The Strategy of Medicine and Public Health System Integration

“For too long, the personal health care and public health systems have shouldered their respective roles and responsibilities separately from each other…we need to invest in a process that mobilizes expertise and action…if we are to substantially improve community and population health” (Institute on Medicine)1

On their own, neither public health nor medicine can effectively address the myriad factors impacting the health of a patient (the focus of medicine) or a population (the focus of public health). The strategy of medicine and public health system integration involves the purposeful and proactive coordination of the knowledge, skills, and resources from both systems to improve both individual and population health.

The importance of medicine and public health integration permeates national health policy agenda.  For example:

  • The “National Prevention Strategy,” the first-ever plan for improving the heatlh and well-being of the US, includes as a strategic priority the  integration of clinical and community preventive services delivery.   
  • The patient-centered medical home practice model advocates that patient care be coordinated not only within the “medical village” but with community-based services and health promotion programs.  Public health can provide as a bridge for primary care to connect with the array of public health and community-based services and programs available to their patient population.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics, released in 2013 a new policy statement  stresses the importance of pediatricians partnering with public health to address population-based pediatric health priorities.  

Opportunities for the medical care and public health systems, in concert with community and patient partners, to collaboratively promote both individual and population health span the prevention to treatment spectrum.   For example, together medicine and public health can:

  • Improve health by participating in community-wide health promotion campaigns.
  • Protect vulnerable populations by advocating for expanded  insurance coverage.
  • Support  accessible and high quality patient-centered primary care.
  • Take care of the complex medical and social needs of fragile patients in collaboration with community partners.

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Want to learn more about the strategy of medicine and public health integration? See the below resources:

Resource Description
Primary Care and Public Health: Exploring Integration to Improve Population Health This 2012 Institute of Medicine Report examines opportunities to facilitate public health and primary care working together to promote population health.
Joint Special issue on Primary Care and Public Health Integration This Sept. 2012 joint issue of the American Journal of Public Health and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

1 Durch JS, Bailey LA, Stoto MA, editors. Improving Health in the Community: A Role for Performance Monitoring. Washington DC: National Academy Press; 1997.