In 2011, as part of a review of our strategic plan, the AcademyHealth Board endorsed three strategic priority areas for 2012-2014: health care costs and value, delivery system transformation, and public/population health. The endorsement includes the commitment of additional resources for developing and augmenting our programs and services in those inter-related areas. You may have noticed the increased visibility on public and population health through sessions at our Annual Research Meeting (ARM) and National Health Policy Conference (NHPC), national speaking engagements, and the use of social media. We’ve also placed important stakeholders in AcademyHealth’s leadership positions so that public and population health perspectives are considered in our planning efforts. While these efforts demonstrate the “push” from our end, we’re particularly thrilled about the “pull” from our members and from the extended research and policy communities. The public health theme at the 2012 ARM received the second most number of abstract submissions and, in November, our Public Health Systems Research (PHSR) Interest Group became our largest Interest Group. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) presents a unique opportunity to break down the longstanding silos between health care and public health, our members and stakeholders are the agents of change in states and communities, and AcademyHealth is positioned to inform collaborative efforts between these two historically siloed systems. By doing what we do best—generating and supporting new knowledge and translating knowledge into action—AcademyHealth hopes to identify and disseminate what works to improve population health. In December, we convened a small meeting of experts from diverse perspectives on population health to guide our thinking moving forward. An exceptional roster of thought leaders representing researchers, health systems, insurers, employers, and state and federal policymakers, participated in this forum to help us crystallize AcademyHealth’s unique contributions and role in population health, and identify specific activities, programs, and partnerships we should develop and/or pursue. The meeting advisors were Michael A. Stoto, Ph.D. (Georgetown University), David Kindig, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin), Bechara Choucair, M.D. (Chicago Department of Public Health), and Jo Ivey Boufford, M.D. (New York Academy of Medicine). It was also planned with input from Kaiser Permanente, and conducted at their new Center for Total Health. A background paper by Dr. Stoto, AcademyHealth’s first Senior Scholar in Residence, served to level set (read the paper here). Dr. Stoto also kicked off the day-long meeting by highlighting the challenges of defining and measuring population health. Dr. Kindig spearheaded the next section, with the goal of identifying research questions and current innovations occurring to improve population health. Then, providing a reality check, Dr. Choucair, a city health director, started an afternoon discussion about the use of evidence on the ground. This led to the identification of some practical opportunities for engaging priority audiences and targeting translation efforts, particularly within a changing healthcare landscape. Dr. Boufford summarized the meeting’s key messages, concluding that the field of health services research, and thus AcademyHealth, can do more to support population health. She also suggested that, while there is consensus that the science of population health improvement may provide crucial evidence about health system transformation, there are more questions than answers at this time. As we turn the calendars to 2013, we have validated this priority area and the potential for AcademyHealth to make a unique contribution. Our next steps include a focus on measurement science and data for population health, bolstering stronger connections between the HSR community and employers, and harvesting evidence of effective interventions from the field so that strategies to improve population health can be shared. We look forward to continuing this dialogue, to fostering our partnerships between and across the health care and public health communities, and to continuing to ask questions that will advance the science, and the translation of that science, in support of population based approaches to health. We want to hear from you! What do you think we can do to support you and HSR in this area? Post a response below!  

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