Health outcomes are affected by both the primary care system - including whether patients have access to care or receive culturally appropriate guidance - and the larger context of a patient’s daily environment.
For example, a primary care provider may be able to provide culturally appropriate health education to a patient with asthma. Acting alone, this provider might not recognize the increased prevalence of asthma among residents in that patient’s community.
Public health relies on primary care providers to diagnose health problems among their patients and can work with such providers to identify environmental risks such as building mold and substantial numbers of smokers in the apartment complex that might contribute to the patient’s asthma. Together, they can work to support building clean up and policies that disallow smoking in shared air spaces.
Bridging the Gap:
To improve overall population health, we must work to bridge the gap between primary care and public health.
The process of working together should reflect your desire to improve population health. Throughout your journey, you will face barriers that threaten to divide you and your partners. You can surpass these obstacles by acknowledging what you have in common. Public health serves the community, but primary care has a responsibility beyond the clinic walls as well. Both public health and primary care have strengths that they bring to the table. Do you know your strengths? Do you understand your partner's value?
Watch a video by the Institute of Medicine that highlights medicine and public health integration efforts from across the country.