Towards a 21st Century Approach

Members of the public sitting at tables filling out paperwork.

Public health today has a rare opportunity to advance social, physical, economic, and environmental structures in a way that promotes health in its broadest sense.


The Issue:
The era of the Affordable Care Act offers once-in-a-generation opportunities for communities to change the ways they define and promote public health.

Six elements for a 21st century vision for public health:

  1. Effectively engage with institutions outside traditional public health—health services, housing, transportation, and education—to build linkages between their concerns and the public health agenda.
  2. Have those most affected by a public health problem become part of creating the solution.
  3. Engage health care institutions and leaders in finding ways to act directly on the underlying community determinants of wellness and injury.
  4. Encourage businesses to invest in health and safety as partners in a comprehensive community prevention initiative.
  5. Change the physical and social environment of a community so that healthier activities become the norm.
  6. Communicate broadly the success stories of public health as being about real people, their lives and futures.

Moving forward, public health and community leadership need to engage new leaders and create new alliances.

About the Study:
This paper is based on 50 in-depth interviews with community experts and leaders in a broad array of sectors.