The Future of Public Health: A Local Health Department View

Research paper by Allen N Koplin

Indexed on: 01 Dec '90Published on: 01 Dec '90Published in: Journal of Public Health Policy


This is an examination of factors responsible for the “disarray” in public health activities as described in the Institute of Medicine report on The Future of Public Health. It approaches the problem primarily from the viewpoint of the local health agency. Three contributing factors are discussed: disproportionate national expenditures for medical care as compared to public health funding; structural flaws in organization leading to functional difficulties; and medical profession opposition to an expanded role for local health departments. The problem of inadequately sized local governmental jurisdictions which are unable to supply sufficient resources for their health departments is discussed, and the complexities of remedial mergers across political boundaries are explored.Suggestions for improving the functions of local health departments include the provision of medical care services, not as a last resort as the Institute of Medicine report suggests, but as equal and perhaps superior competitors in the marketplace; increased state financial and technical support; and a proposed new federal program, The Health Objectives 2000 Act, S.2056, which will make specific provision to greatly strengthen health departments, facilitate the incorporation of missing skills and expertise in local health units, and enhance their capabilities to function as frontline agencies which are essential for achieving effective public health action.