University of Nebraska Medical Center

President Barack Obama Appoints COPH Faculty Member to Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative Public Health

Public Health in the National News

From left to right: Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Dr. Patrik Johansson, and Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh

In April of this year, President Barack Obama appointed Patrik Johansson, MD, MPH, director of the Rural Health Education Network and associate professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative Public Health (Advisory Group). The Advisory Group, established through a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is composed of sixteen prevention professionals whose expertise includes worksite health promotion; community services, including community health centers; preventive medicine; health coaching; public health education; geriatrics; and rehabilitation medicine.

The Advisory Group is tasked with developing policy and program recommendations and advising the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council (National Prevention Council) on lifestyle-based chronic disease prevention and management, integrative health care practices, and health promotion. The National Prevention Council, called for by the ACA, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level and among all executive agencies regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices, is composed of the heads of 17 federal agencies and is chaired by Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin.

With input from the Advisory Group and other stakeholders, the National Prevention Council released the National Prevention Strategy in June of this year. According to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, “This National Prevention Strategy, called for under the ACA, will help us transform our health care system away from a focus on sickness and disease to a focus on prevention and wellness. We know that prevention helps people live long and productive lives and can help combat rising healthcare costs.”

The National Prevention Strategy includes actions that public and private partners can take to help Americans stay healthy and fit and outlines four strategic directions that synergistically provide a foundation for improving the nation’s health. Those four strategic directions are:

  • Building Healthy and Safe Community Environments: Prevention of disease starts in our communities and at home, not just in the doctor’s office.
  • Expanding Quality Preventive Services in Both Clinical and Community Settings: When people receive preventive care, such as immunizations and cancer screenings, they have better health and lower health care costs.
  • Empowering People to Make Healthy Choices: When people have access to actionable and easy-to-understand information and resources, they are empowered to make healthier choices.
  • Eliminating Health Disparities: By eliminating disparities in achieving and maintaining health, we can help improve quality of life for all Americans.

Dr. Johansson, who prior to his appointment at the UNMC College of Public Health worked with the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2001-2006 where he co-led efforts surrounding the development of a department-wide health disparities plan, stated, “The leadership of 17 agencies in formulating the National Prevention Strategy provides a comprehensive and evidence-based foundation for moving forward towards promoting community well-being. Recognizing that many of the predictors of good health and well-being fall outside the health care setting (for instance, healthy foods, safe worksites, clean air, and water safety) underscores the critical role and responsibilities that all agencies represented in the Advisory Council have and play in the disease prevention and health promotion of communities.”

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