Government can have an impact on health – if governments actually implement the policies that evidence has shown can work.
Shelley Hearne, president of CityHealth, laid out for National Press Foundation fellows what those policies are and which cities are following them. CityHealth examines the nation’s largest 40 cities for the policies that can make real impacts on people’s everyday quality of life and health. The measures are backed by experts and have a track record of bipartisan support.
For anyone with a more quotidian understanding of “public health,” as the policies and laws designed to monitor and regulate people’s behavioral choices, the conference themes — homelessness, affordable housing, education, economic opportunity, climate change — might have seemed broad or off-topic. But in fact this “bigger picture” is what communities should be looking at to improve health outcomes, said Shelley Hearne, president of City Health, which helps cities create evidence-based solutions to “bigger” problems like these.
Creating and implementing public health policy can be a daunting task for local communities. Using evidence-based interventions recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF), CityHealth provided cities with blueprints for healthier populations. “Having a healthy population is one of the best drivers of a strong, vital economy,” said Shelley Hearne, DrPH, CityHealth’s principal investigator. “What we did with CityHealth is conceptually focus on cities. Cities are the centers of innovation. They’re trying new approaches, new strategies, and in addition to a focus on populations and a willingness for cooperation, there may be less partisanship than at a state or federal level.”
Building on the partnership theme, Kaiser Permanente recently joined with the de Beaumont Foundation as a national partner in CityHealth. “Kaiser Permanente covers more than 12 million lives,” Brian said, “and they’ve become a partner in CityHealth. That’s a drop-the-mic moment. It shows increasing recognition that healthcare alone can’t make us healthy. That other community-based strategies are needed.”
The shift to value-based reimbursement has forced health systems to pay more attention to social determinants of health, and studies show that one stands out: Housing, both the quality and the location, is one of the best-researched indicators of overall health. Health systems are even designing interventions to improve housing for patients who consume more than their share of health resources.