Inequalities and disparities in the healthcare system are widespread throughout the U.S. As they worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders established many initiatives to confront and overcome these issues. With the changing landscape of healthcare, those in public health have taken steps to promote awareness in neglected communities to elevate wellness and reduce the strain of chronic illness on the healthcare system.
Public health departments recognize the importance of community health, well-being and preventative healthcare but may not have the resources to develop and utilize community health initiatives. Luckily, collaboration between public health and primary care professionals can improve the overall wellness of a community.
An online Master of Public Health from Eastern Washington University (EWU) can help make a difference and enable graduates to examine the sociological perspective of healthcare inequities and develop the means to improve them. By analyzing public health issues, developing programs to meet public health needs, assessing program outcomes that address public health concerns and applying funding concepts to community health initiatives, graduates of this online program can prepare for in-demand roles within the field of public health.
How Public Health and Healthcare Can Join Forces
To confront the socioeconomic factors that impact health, improvement initiatives need to go beyond the long-established confines of the healthcare system in the United States. Community-based partnerships between community leaders and organizations, healthcare providers, business owners, educators and social service organizations can encourage healthy lifestyles, decrease health disparities and improve access to preventative and primary care providers. The shared goals of improving community health, upgrading the quality of care and reducing costs can prioritize population health.
Today, many of the health issues U.S. citizens encounter are related to where they work and live, including chronic illnesses, drug abuse and infectious diseases. Local health departments improve public health by providing assessment and improvement plans for their community. Local hospitals, clinics and healthcare providers can combine resources and assets to develop community benefit programs.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the regional health departments around the country. Dedicated to serving every health department in the country, the organization strives to improve the well-being of local communities by advocating and strengthening health departments.
Some communities receive assistance from the Triple Aim Initiative from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), which focuses on identifying unfulfilled health needs and emphasizes opportunities to develop affordable and sustainable healthcare systems in specific regions. The IHI program helped the Queens Health Network in New York City improve access to healthcare, reduce travel and visit times from 260 minutes to less than 60 minutes, enhance disease management and improve electronic information technology use to support patient care.
Some other examples of community-based public health interventions can be found in the River Region of Alabama where diabetes wellness advocates, trained by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program called The Steps to a Healthier U.S., helped diabetic patients manage their condition and set wellness goals. This decreased emergency room visits for the participants by 50%.
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services developed a program to help children and their families increase their physical activity. As a result, youth physical activity increased by 25%, according to two years of study. In Washington, Public Health Seattle and King County received a grant from the CDC to develop a system to recruit, educate and screen underserved populations for colorectal cancer. A home screening program improved the testing return rate from 2-3% to 63% and served as a model for the national expansion of the colorectal screen program.
EWU’s online Master of Public Health program can help develop skills for graduates to understand data and deploy strategies for improved patient care. The program can help prepare graduates for jobs like contact tracer, biostatistician, public health educator, community health advisor and more.
Learn more about Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Public Health program.