Health 3.0 initiative takes new approach to public health

Published 11:55 am Friday, February 3, 2017

The Clark County Health Department is joining an initiative to evolve how public health is approached on the local level.

Public Health 3.0 is a federal initiative aimed at creating “a 21st century public health infrastructure.”

The goal overall, according to Scott Lockard, director of public health in Clark County, is to shift health departments to a population mindset working with partners in local, state and federal government in addition to the business community and others to encourage the overall health of the community rather than just being a provider of some health services.

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“Public health is transforming,” Lockard said. “Years ago we had a lack of medical providers and we needed a lot more services in our communities so we had a lot more nurses providing front-line services.”

Now that there are more mid- and top-level medical providers in smaller communities, the demand for health departments to function the way they had has gone down.

He said that while the federal plan is being used as a guide by health departments in Kentucky, the plan is also being adjusted and “Kentuckyized” to address specific issues in the state.

It’s a direction that Clark County has been going in for some time now, Lockard said.

“We started down this pathway about five or six years ago,” he said.

The initiative relies on several components for success, including a focus on advocacy for health on the population level, striving to meet accreditation standards, becoming a data hub for health research and reworking the way health departments are funded.

Lockard described the effort as getting the community to try to look at business decisions and public policy through a public health lens.

“Health should not be an afterthought,” Lockard said.

He added that there is a correlation between improving someone’s socioeconomic status and improving their health, so an end goal for public health should be to help affect decisions that will lead to more prosperity throughout the community.

Some examples of this seen locally include the creation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which advocates for public bike lanes and sidewalks to make alternative transportation options more feasible, and the data collection that has been ongoing with the health department’s syringe exchange program, which can provide useful information for policymakers in this community and others.

Seeking accreditation will help improve the efficiency of the department, Lockard said, through the creation of a set of best practices. He added that Kentucky is leading the way in health department accreditation, with 11 departments currently accredited and more on the way.

“We’ll be submitting all of our documentation for accreditation by the end of this year,” Lockard said.

Addressing funding sent to health departments is another effort to establish best practices, Lockard said.

“In the past preventative care has been given minimal funding,” he said. “Well at a health department we deal completely in prevention. If we’re going to look at how to best encourage fundamental health, we’ve got to look at the fundamental way we fund health departments and not put them on a fee-for-service model.”

He added that, in addition to seeking more state funding for preventative care, health departments themselves need to be more selective about what they accept public funds for, paying more attention to and advocating for the needs of the community rather than what state officials want to fund.