Public Health 3.0, the NPA, and the Opioid Epidemic: Embracing a New Approach to Public Health

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By Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, and J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health

Dr. DeSalvo

Public health stakeholders from the federal to the local level are looking for ways to combat the opioid crisis. Two available resources are the Public Health 3.0 (PH3.0) framework and the ongoing work of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA), an initiative of the Office of Minority Health within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Taken together, these resources offer a solution that is as unique as the crisis itself.

PH3.0 is an initiative of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health (OASH) at HHS. OASH published Public Health 3.0: A Call to Action to Create a 21st Century Public Health Infrastructure to address the emerging public health challenges and meet the needs of the nation’s diverse communities. It is a new approach to address existing challenges in public health by focusing on a community-based, data-driven approach to alleviate health disparities. PH3.0 challenges stakeholders to address fundamental gaps in population health by focusing on the social determinants of health.

Dr. Gracia

Similar to the PH3.0 mission of achieving health equity are the efforts of the NPA — a cross-sector collaborative focused on ending health disparities and achieving health equity. This comprehensive approach broadens the national dialogue on health disparities to a partnership-based movement that can be customized to address local and regional concerns.

PH3.0 is organized into five themes that reflects the existing work of the NPA, and could help local communities combat the opioid crisis:

  1. Leadership and Workforce. NPA’s Federal Interagency Health Equity Team (FIHET) is comprised of 12 federal agencies — including non-traditional healthcare stakeholders — that address the social determinants of health and are committed to improving health equity in all their policies.
  2. Strategic Partnerships. PH3.0 calls for, and the NPA facilitates, partnerships from both the public and private sector to ensure a diversity of stakeholders are working towards eliminating health disparities.
  3. Flexible and Sustainable Funding. NPA’s 10 Regional Health Equity Councils (RHECs) are non-federal, multi-sector, volunteer-based councils working to advance health equity in their communities that have begun to solicit their own funding vehicles. The Southeastern Health Equity Council, for example, currently has a Precision Medicine joint grant sponsored by several leading universities.
  4. Timely and Locally Relevant Data, Metrics and Analysis. Through both the RHECs and the FIHET, the NPA is supporting the collection and dissemination of public health data as envisioned by PH3.0. The FIHET released its Compendium of Publicly Available Datasets and other Data-Related Resources — a free resource of publicly available data relevant to research and programs aiming to reduce health disparities — in November 2016. RHECs, too, serve to collect and disseminate data at the local level.
  5. Foundational Infrastructure. Through the NPA, national public health infrastructure is being redesigned from the grassroots up to the federal level. The organizations and collaboration initiated by the NPA not only support the objectives of PH3.0, but provide a new approach to addressing public health problems.

Regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or geographic location, opioid abuse is a public health crisis that cuts across every strata of American society. The goals of PH3.0 and NPA’s implementation structure could serve as a catalyst for combating the opioid epidemic by empowering local communities to develop plans that address their unique needs and fit within the fabric of their communities.

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