Background Paper

No. 78

High Hopes: Public Health Approaches to Reducing the Need for Health Care
September 27, 2010


Michele J. Orza, ScD


Driven in part by a desire to contain health care costs, policymakers are looking beyond medical care for opportunities to reduce the need for expensive services. This paper briefly reviews current public health concepts and strategies for improving health that emphasize nonmedical factors such as behavior, socioeconomic status, and environment. It also provides examples of how these concepts and strategies undergird many of the public health provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, other legislation, and several programs and initiatives. These concepts include prevention, health in all policies, global health, the One Health Initiative, and climate change and health.

Related Materials

For more information on this topic, see these related NHPF background papers and Forum meetings: "The Primary Care Safety Net: Strained, Transitioning, Critical" (Background Paper 79, September 28, 2010); "Governmental Public Health: An Overview of State and Local Public Health Agencies" (Background Paper 77, August 18, 2010); "Getting Real: Data Sources, the Evidence Base, and Strategies for Improving the Health of Communities," September 24, 2010; "Focus on Reform: Public Health Provisions" (Forum Session, June 25, 2010); "As the World Turns: Evolving Global Health Thinking and U.S. Policy" (Forum Session, May 7, 2010); "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise? Examining the Impact of Socioeconomic Status on Health" (Forum Session, March 14, 2008); "Unusual Suspects: Focusing on Nonmedical Determinants to Improve the Nation's Health" (Forum Session, November 5, 2010); and "Health Impact Assessments: What, Why, How, Who, Where?" (Forum Session, December 3, 2010).

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