A Holistic and Comprehensive Approach

Jan 5, 2012, 7:00 PM, Posted by Laura Brennaman

As we head into 2012, the Human Capital Blog asked Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) staff, program directors, scholars and grantees to share their New Year’s resolutions for our health care system, and what they think should be the priorities for action in the New Year. This post is by Laura Brennaman, MSN, RN, CEN, a fellow at the RWJF Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico.

As we enter 2012, my resolution and wish for the U.S. health care system is a fundamental and transformative shift from a focus on disease management to one of health promotion. As Americans and health professionals, we must recognize that even the most advanced and best interventions to remedy diseases do not improve the overall health status of our country. Only preventing epidemics of chronic problems like metabolic syndromes, heart disease, and lung disease that plague our population can have significant wellness and economic benefits.

The Affordable Care Act offers a mechanism to foster such a change in emphasis with the establishment of the National Council for Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health that intertwines the governance of 17 executive agencies. Leadership from diverse arenas such as transportation, trade, agriculture and labor concentrating on health promotion strategies from within and across domains provides opportunities to affect many of the determinants of poor health and transform them into positive scenarios to improve health status of all Americans.

Actualizing new health promotion strategies through shifting spending from direct care provision to prevention mechanisms of social programs like job training, housing supports, public transportation systems, and childcare services has greater potential to improve health outcomes for Americans than new technology or pharmaceuticals for disease management.

In this coming election year, the candidates for office will propose a bevy of ideas concerning health care. However, we must pay heed to all programs they propose to enhance or curtail through a lens of health outcomes. Proposals dealing with environment, energy and economic issues will affect our health as surely as any health care reform plan.

Hence, my resolution for our health care system is holistic and comprehensive consideration of the health impact of every policy. Through such integrated deliberation, we will achieve improvement in health outcomes and reductions in health disparities for all Americans.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.