Health
8:27 am
Thu March 6, 2014

“Playbook” For Local Health Professionals To Lower Health Care Costs

A picture of a stethoscope.
Public heath advocates say doctors should work more closely with health departments to solve systemic health issues in their area and lower medical costs.
Credit jasleen_kaur / Flickr/Creative Commons

A new online guidebook aims to help connect doctors with public health agencies to fight chronic illnesses like diabetes.  Those illnesses make up 80-percent of health care costs today, compared to only 20-percent in 1900.

Duke's Department of Community and Family Medicine partnered with the de Beaumont Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch "Public Health and Primary Care Together: A Practical Playbook.” It suggests ways primary care and public health providers can better manage chronic disease and combat rising health care costs.

Doctor Denise Koo of the CDC said while doctors treat individuals, public health departments develop programs that fight systemic diseases, like smoking cessation programs for lung health or nutrition programs for neighborhoods without healthy food stores.  They can prevent patients from needing more medical care.

“We find that sometimes our primary care partners don't even know about these kinds of interventions, what public health has to offer to support them,” Koo said. “They can't do it all.”

The playbook helps doctors work with public health departments and target issues specific to their communities.

Brian Castrucci of the non-profit de Beaumont Foundation says it would be a good first step for doctors to familiarize themselves with local health departments. Ideally, they could work together to compile and review local health data.

'Where is there a toxic site? Where is there a lack of transportation? Where is there a lack of jobs? Where is there a lack of fresh fruit? Where is there a lack of activity? Where is there not a place to get your prescription filled?' - Brian Castrucci

“Your local mayor, your local health officer, your local primary care provider, need to know specifically where things are happening, where disease is occurring, so that we can then look at the context of it,” Castrucci said. “‘Where is there a toxic site? Where is there a lack of transportation? Where is there a lack of jobs? Where is there a lack of fresh fruit? Where is there a lack of activity? Where is there not a place to get your prescription filled?’”

Supporters of better cooperation between primary care and public health say systemic changes could improve community health and lower medical costs.