For the Public's Health: The Role of Measurement in Action and Accountability

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Despite having the costliest medical care delivery system in the world, Americans are not particularly healthy. Recent international comparisons show that life expectancy in the U.S. ranks 49th among all nations, and infant mortality rates are higher in the U.S. than in many far less affluent nations. While these statistics are alarming, the bigger problem is that we do not know how to reverse this trend. Our lack of knowledge is due in large part to significant inadequacies in the health system for gathering, analyzing, and communicating health information about the population.

To inform the public health community and all other sectors that contribute to population health, For the Public's Health: The Role of Measurement in Action and Accountability reviews current approaches for measuring the health of individuals and communities and creates a roadmap for future development. This book, the first of three in a series, focuses on data and measurement-not as ends in themselves, but rather tools to inform the myriad programs, policies, and processes developed or undertaken by governmental public health agencies and their many partners in the health system.

For the Public's Health seeks to reinstate the proper and evidence-based understanding of health as not merely the result of medical or clinical care but the result of the sum of what we do as a society to create the conditions in which people can be healthy. To achieve this goal, the book suggests changes in the processes, tools, and approaches used to gather information about health outcomes and their determinants. The book also recommends developing an integrated and coordinated system in which all parties-including governmental and private sector partners at all levels-have access to timely and meaningful data to help foster individual and community awareness and action.

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