Wayne Gretzy and the Future of Public Health

An address by James S. Marks, RWJF senior vice president and director of the Health Group.

    • December 22, 2009

He wasn't the biggest, the fastest or the strongest. Yet hockey great Wayne Gretzky is widely acknowledged as the greatest player in the history of the game.

There are parallels between Gretzky and public health today, said James S. Marks, RWJF senior vice president and director of the Health Group in an address in Topeka, Kansas, in December 2009.

"Public health is clearly not the biggest or most powerful part of the health system. It has fewer resources, getting just a tiny fraction of the trillions spent annually on health care in this country—two-to-five cents on the dollar," said Marks. "It has limited public visibility, at least when things are going well—which is at least partly why the public, including many policy makers, has a limited understanding of what public health does."

in his address, Marks spelled out where "public health needs to be in the years ahead—and why I think these public health approaches will be so critical to our nation’s future health, both physical and fiscal."

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