I continually hear about budget cuts and loss of funding associated with public health departments.  Many of these organizations are facing tough decisions regarding care in their communities. Organizations will be forced to reduce the types of services they offer while others in their communities fill in the gaps. Instead of reducing these services, does Accountable Care Act (ACA) offer public health an opportunity to change course?

The buzzwords we hear today like care coordination, accountable care, and improved outcomes are phrases and events public health organizations have been doing for years. Take any public health nurse or case manager at a health department and quiz them about resources in their community and contacts at those agencies. You’ll soon find that “care coordination” already exists within the minds of these skilled public servants. Ask a health officer about the challenges their community faces and what policy and/or community resources need to be more readily leveraged or added to address these challenges. Ask, how in the past, contaminates in their community or emergencies have been addressed. Throughout public health you’ll find outcome measurements and accountable care. The sad part of ACA is the public health infrastructure and improvement is largely left out of legislation. There is funding for immunizations, cancer screenings, and delivery of data to health departments but no funding for infrastructure to capture, analyze and act upon this data.

For legislations that largely addresses the long-term goals of public health — prevent, promote, and protect — public health should be viewed as the “quarterback” for healthcare in their communities, but is now losing funding and resources to address these needs.