What Is the National Quality Strategy?

Health care spending in the United States now totals $2.5 trillion a year, the most per capita in the world. Yet Americans have shorter life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates than other wealthy countries, suggesting that the amount of money spent is not translating into better care.

To address this problem, the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care, also known as the National Quality Strategy.

The strategy, submitted to Congress on March 21, 2011, is the first policy to set national goals to improve the quality of health care. It sets standards and regulations to measure the quality of health care and its impacts on public health.

The strategy establishes three objectives: (1) to make health care more accessible, safe and patient-centered; (2) to address environmental, social and behavioral influences on health and health care; and (3) to make care more affordable.

The strategy also sets priorities that must be addressed to meet these aims, and proposes ways to identify areas for improvement and measure progress. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality oversees the National Quality Strategy and provides annual updates on its progress to Congress and all Americans.

This Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Snapshot brief examines core aspects of the National Quality Strategy and how it defines quality of care.