Working Together

Summary

Traditionally, primary care addresses the care and treatment of the individual, while public health focuses on addressing the overall health of a community. Both entities have tried to improve health outcomes of those they serve.

Despite these efforts, health outcomes in our patients and in our communities continue to decline. Even though we know overall health of a community and individual wellness are intricately tied, efforts by public health professionals and primary care physicians have been largely divided along professional lines – keeping them both from achieving as much as they could. 

Working Together:

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?

Success Story:

Watch a video by the Institute of Medicine that highlights medicine and public health integration efforts from across the country.

Ready to begin working together?

Identify new opportunities for working with partners. Choose from specific health topics, or more general cross cutting topics.

See all topics