IOM pushes for primary care, public health integration

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The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as well as the U.S. Health & Human Services Department, to work together to develop and train the needed workforce to integrate primary care and public health, according to an IOM report released yesterday.  

Acknowledging that the task no doubt would be a "a daunting endeavor," committee chair Paul J. Wallace, senior vice president and director of comparative effectiveness research at consulting firm The Lewin Group in Falls Church, Va., said the nation has moved to integrating healthcare fields like building a national hospital system and investing in speciality medicine technology, but it still has a long way to go.

"It's time we did the same for primary care and public health, which together form the foundation of our population's overall well-being. Each of these foundational elements could be stronger if they were better coordinated and collaborated more closely," he said in a National Academies announcement.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act authorized HRSA and CDC under health reform to launch new programs, which IOM says should be geared toward coordination at national, state and local levels and encourage hospitals to treat primary care and community health as priorities as they push for tax-exempt status.

For example, IOM says HRSA should use its primary care training programs to support curriculum development and training opportunities that include public health, and CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service officers could help HRSA-supported community health centers in using public health data. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation also could improve community health by supporting primary care public health pilots, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality could encourage its Primary Care Extension Program to create links between primary care providers and local health departments.

"The path to population health improvement will involve significant investment in the creation of linkages and alignment across many sectors," IOM concludes in its briefing slides.

For more information:
- here's the press release
- read the IOM report (.pdf)
- see the briefing slides (.pdf)

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