Health Care Reform and Local Health Departments

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is leading to significant reform in the delivery of health care in the United States. Under this Act, states and local jurisdictions are required to revise existing health care service delivery systems in order to meet the needs of the public. Public health systems (such as local health departments) will need to expand, evolve, and adapt in order to help move the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to wellness and prevention.

The de Beaumont Foundation funded a webinar focusing on the new role of local health departments in the era of health care reform. Using the Howard County Health Department as an example, the webinar reviewed the traditional role of health departments in the past and how that role is evolving as health care reform takes effect. In the webinar, (former) Howard County Health Officer, Peter Beilenson, MD, cited initiatives by the Howard County Health Department and outlined a proposed model by which other local jurisdictions may evolve under the new federal mandates. His premise was that local health departments will shift away from direct clinical services to an increased role in community and population-based specialties. Howard County Health Department conducted the first webinar in June 2011 and, based on its success, hosted a second session in October 2011.