Friday, June 24, 2011

Maybe we can all just get along

If I've learned one thing from all the APHA meetings I've attended, it's that public health folks aren't shy or quiet when it comes to their opinions on the best ways to fix our current health system and improve community health. And so it was a lively debate on Friday morning in a 2011 APHA Midyear Meeting session on Seeking Common Ground: Various Approaches to Improving Population Health. The speakers may have had differing opinions about the new health reform law, however they did share one big, wide space of shared ground: The U.S. could — and must — do more to widen the opportunities that allow people to make healthy decisions. Below are some choice quotes from the speakers during the session, which was moderated by Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief Susan Dentzer:

"In so many ways, this is the best of times and also in so many ways, this is the worst of times," said John McDonough, director of the Center for Public Health Leadership at the Harvard School of Public Health, who noted that for the first time, the federal government is being strategic in terms of prevention and wellness, pointing to the recent release of the National Prevention Strategy.

"We are right now in the midst of the largest assault on public health in our nation's history," McDonough said in reference to the current backlash against the government's role in addressing society's problems.

"I'm thrilled that health finally is on the radar screen," said Julie Eckstein, of the Center for Health Transformation, in referring to the public health and prevention provisions of the health reform law.

"We have a health crisis and we have a health care crisis," Eckstein said.

"Single-payer provides us with a platform to address population health," said Oliver Fein, a professor at Cornell University Medical College, in describing the benefits of a single-payer health care system. He added that public health workers can continue to be advocates for a health system vision that goes beyond the current health reform law.

More common ground than not, right? Unfortunately, as Eckstein poignantly pointed out, the "common ground isn't newsworthy." Ain't that the sad truth.

Above, Dr. Oliver Fein speaks as part of a panel on improving population health. Photo by Michele Late

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