ALEXANDRIA, Va., June 19, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading public health officials and organizations have joined with the Institute for Alternative Futures to look ahead at the challenges and opportunities awaiting the professionals who work to ensure conditions that help all Americans get and stay healthy.
The Institute's new report, Public Health 2030: A Scenario Exploration, offers four alternative scenarios for the future of public health, and a series of recommendations for ensuring agencies that work to control communicable diseases, ensure food safety, promote health, and foster emergency preparedness and response are able to fulfill their mission. The scenarios serve as a planning tool for organizations and communities to consider plausible alternative paths for the field in order to clarify vision and identify optimal strategies. The recommendations offer robust strategies that would be effective and advance public health in multiple futures, despite ongoing changes that affect the field. The project was supported by The Kresge Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Created with the help of state and local public health departments, national public health associations, and public health experts, the scenarios explore likely, challenging and surprisingly successful paths for public health:
#1: One Step Forward, Half a Step Back. Public health agencies and health care slowly advance their capabilities. Many use automation and advanced analytics to improve services and community and population health. However, climate change challenges continue to grow, and there is little progress in improving the social determinants of health. Great variations in technological capabilities, funding, and approaches to prevention - along with a continuous rise in health care costs - significantly limit public health gains.
#2: Overwhelmed, Under-Resourced. Funding cuts and a hostile political context undermine the role of public health agencies. Public health crises grow worse and more frequent, largely due to climate change. Private sector initiatives produce significant innovations for health and wellness, but these primarily benefit the middle class and affluent. Technological, economic, educational, and health disparities grow, and public health institutions have little capacity todo anything about them.
#3: Sea Change for Health Equity. National and local economies gradually grow, and changes in values and demographics lead to "common sense" policies and support for health equity. Public health agencies evolve into health development agencies that use advanced analytics, gamification, and highly diverse partnerships to identify problems and opportunities, and promote action to improve community health. Some disparities persist, but in 2030 the vast majority of people have attained greater opportunity for good health - thanks to quality improvements in housing, economic advantages, education, and other social determinants of health.
#4: Community-Driven Health and Equity. Public health agencies, partners, and local health improvement initiatives coalesce - via technology and social media - into a national web of community health-enhancing networks. These networks help communities exchange their innovations and best practices, and leverage the expertise of public health agencies and others. The nation also strives to come to terms with its racial and socioeconomic histories, and supports real changes and legislation to create a more equitable society. This value shift to equity is accelerated by rising unemployment and the proliferation of new community economic models that help households sustain themselves as unemployment grows, and improve health and wellbeing. Public health sheds the direct delivery of many health care functions and facilitates these movements to improved health.
A group of public health leaders and experts used these scenarios to develop a series of robust recommendations:
1: Transform public health agencies into "health development agencies." This transformation will pave the path for developing and recruiting the people and resources needed to innovate, and to make major inroads into improving population health and eliminating health disparities.
2: Partner in transforming the current, disease- and treatment-oriented health care system into a system that focuses on preventing illness and maintenance of health and well-being rather than focusing just on treating people after they get sick.
3: Build the capacity for dialogue about inclusion, opportunity, and equity. Design and sustain dialogues to address the historical legacy and present day practices of racism and other "isms," as well as to construct a new future-focused and inclusive narrative about health.
4: Dialogue with other sectors to support innovation. Public health needs to seek lessons in innovation from other stakeholders and sectors. Conversely, it is imperative that all stakeholders understand that public health is an asset and how it can help them improve their bottom line, job satisfaction, and learning outcomes.
The full report is now available on the Institute for Alternative Futures website. The website also provides videos summarizing each scenario and instructions for using them in workshops to inform strategic planning. Four additional scenario sets designed for local and state public health agencies of varying size are also available.
About The Kresge Foundation
The Kresge Foundation is a $3 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America's cities through grantmaking and investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services and community development efforts in Detroit. For more information, visit kresge.org.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is the nation's largest philanthropy working to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.
About the Institute for Alternative Futures
The Institute for Alternative Futures is a nonprofit research and educational organization that helps communities and organizations more wisely understand and create the futures they prefer. Since 1977, IAF has been a pioneer in the use of futures methods, such as forecasts, scenarios, and vision, in health and health care, energy, transportation, education, and business. For more information, visit www.altfutures.org.
SOURCE Institute for Alternative Futures