Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest Commentary: Awareness as a first step toward achieving population health

Valerie P. Pracilio, MPH
Project Manager for Quality Improvement
Jefferson School of Population Health

Recently, a number of colleagues and friends visited Philadelphia to celebrate the release of our latest book, Population Health: Creating a Culture of Wellness. As health care professionals, we are intimately familiar with the issues our system faces, and we are optimistic about the changes that are resulting from health reform efforts.

However, we still have a challenging road to travel to inform the public of the key issues and how they can be addressed at the population level. No mater what your position, I think we can all agree that achieving and maintaining health is our primary goal. By focusing on access to healthcare services when needed, good quality, safe outcomes when services are used, and avoiding the need for curative care, we can make great strides to improve health care.

The fact is, there is a strong army of individuals advocating for greater access, fewer barriers and better quality care, but the environment in which they are working presents a challenge. Population health is both a call to action and a solution. While individual patient needs are incredibly important, in this text we challenge you to broaden your perspective. We begin by providing background on the key issues and suggestions to achieve improvement. After all, awareness is the first step.

Just as we need to broaden our focus, we also need to recognize that developing population health strategies is not the work of individuals. The collaborative efforts of David B. Nash, JoAnne Reifsnyder, Ray Fabius and myself are a testament to that. At the book launch we had an opportunity to share what we learned while authoring and editing this text.

Dr. Nash highlighted the need for a book focused on population health and how the concept developed, JoAnne shared how we engaged key experts from a variety of fields to contribute, Ray mentioned the culture of wellness movement and how this book will help spread the message, and I highlighted the great work of our contributors, namely, Marty Romney and Henry Fader who were in attendance.

We also invited our colleagues to review the text and share their ideas about how we can turn strategies into solutions. We are at the tip of the iceberg, but we need YOUR help to improve population health!

How do you think can we can improve population health and create a culture of wellness? As always, we are interested in your comments.