Toward a Healthier America: New Report Offers Recommendations

Jan 28, 2013, 5:49 PM

In Akron, Ohio, the Austen BioInnovation Institute recently launched the first of its kind Accountable Care Community (ACC), which brings together more than 70 partners to coordinate health care both in and out of the doctor’s office for patients with type 2 diabetes. By improving physician care as well as making healthier choices easier for people in their daily lives, the ACC has reduced the average cost of care per month for individuals with type 2 diabetes by more than 10 percent per month. The ACC estimates the program saves about $3,185 per person per year.

Akron’s Accountable Care Community is one of several case studies in a new report released today by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), A Healthier America 2013: Strategies to Move from Sick Care to Health Care in Four Years. The report, supported by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Kresge Foundation , offers high-impact recommendations to prioritize prevention efforts that can improve the health of all Americans.

“America’s health faces two possible futures,” said Gail Christopher, DN, President of the Board of TFAH and vice president of program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We can continue on the current path, resigning millions of Americans to health problems that could have been avoided or we can invest in giving all Americans the opportunity to be healthier while saving billions in health care costs. We owe it to our children to take the smarter way.”

Key recommendations in the new report include:

  • Advance the nation’s public health system by adopting a set of “foundational capabilities,” such as those defined recently by the Institute of Medicine report, and ensure sufficient, sustained funding to meet these capabilities;
  • Ensure insurance providers reimburse for effective prevention approaches both inside and outside the doctor’s office;
  • Integrate community-based strategies into new health care models, such as by expanding Accountable Care Organizations required by the Affordable Care Act into Accountable Care Communities;
  • Work with nonprofit hospitals to identify the most effective ways they can expand support for prevention through community benefit programs;
  • Maintain the Prevention and Public Health Fund and expand the Community Transformation Grant program so all Americans can benefit;
  • Implement all of the recommendations for each of the 17 federal agency partners in the National Prevention Strategy; and
  • Encourage all employers, including federal, state and local governments, to provide effective, evidence-based workplace wellness programs.

The new report also features more than 15 case studies, such as the one on the Accountable Care Community in Akron. Another strong example in the report is the Healthy Environments Collaborate (HEC) in North Carolina is an innovative partnership across four state agencies – Health and Human Services, Transportation, Environment and Natural Resources and Commerce. The partnership focuses on creating policies and programs that improve health while also meeting other priority goals, such as improved transportation, increased commerce and stable housing programs.

The report also includes recommendations for 10 ongoing TFAH initiatives to improve the health of Americans:

  • Reverse the obesity epidemic;
  • Prevent tobacco use and exposure;
  • Encourage healthy aging;
  • Improve the health of low-income and minority communities;
  • Strengthen healthy women, healthy babies;
  • Reduce environmental health threats;
  • Enhance injury prevention;
  • Prevent and control infectious diseases;
  • Prioritize health emergencies and bioterrorism preparedness;
  • Improve food safety.

>>Read the full report.

>>Bonus Link: In a new survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Kaiser Family Foundation, and funded in part by RWJF, members of the public were asked about their priorities on a health and health policy issues that federal lawmakers will likely consider this year.

At a Washington, D.C., briefing for reporters about the survey findings last week, David Colby, Vice President for Public Policy at RWJF, pointed out that there has been a substantial increase in the proportion of the public that see diabetes (30% in 2013, compared to 14% in 2007) and obesity (26% in 2013, compared to 6% in 2007) as posing one of the two greatest threats to the nation’s health. Cancer and heart disease continue to be top concerns as well.

"These poll results provide more evidence that our nation is on the right track with expanding availability of affordable health coverage, and focusing more on preventing illness before it results in costly treatment,” said Colby.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.