The future of public health in the United States

As the recent spread of West Nile virus and the anthrax scare of 2001 dramatically illustrate, America faces a variety of new health challenges in the 21st century, along with a number of persistent problems, such as racial disparities in health status and care delivery. Promoting and protecting health also has been made increasingly complex by the growing prevalence of chronic conditions influenced by multiple factors, including social, environmental, and behavioral determinants, as well as biological risk factors.

Improving America’s health in the 21st century requires major overhauls in the funding, organization, and coordination of the government public health infrastructure to ensure that it has the technology, work force, and other resources needed to promote and protect health, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. However, public health should no longer be thought of as just those functions historically provided by government public health agencies. Multiple public- and private-sector partners must engage with government agencies to develop innovative strategies to change the environments – social, physical, and political – that shape the public’s health, the report says.

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Now that this health care bill has become law, the important question is where do we go from here with public health? Using all of the information that you gathered and learn in this course, share your perspective (s) on the future of public health in the United States.

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