A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends increased integration between primary care and public health to improve population health. Primary care focuses on providing medical services to individual patients with immediate health needs. Public health focuses on offering a broader array of services across communities and populations that collectively will help people to be healthy. However, both disciplines share a common goal of improving population health, as well as involving the community in defining and addressing its needs.
At the agency level, the IOM report recommends that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) should take steps to connect staff, funding, and data at the regional, state, and local levels. The agencies should create opportunities for staff to build relationships with each other and local stakeholders by taking advantage of opportunities to work through the ten regional U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offices, state primary care offices and association organizations, state and local health departments, and other mechanisms. The CDC and HRSA also should work together to create research and learning networks that disseminate best practices in order to foster and support the integration of primary care and public health to improve population health at the state and local levels.
The CDC and HRSA should join forces to develop the workforce needed to support the inte- gration of primary care and public health. Among needed actions, the CDC and HRSA should work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to identify regulatory options for graduate medical education funding that give priority to provider training in primary care and public health settings and specifically support pro- grams that integrate primary care practice with public health. They also should develop training grants and teaching tools that can prepare the next generation of health professionals for more integrated clinical and public health functions.