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Introduction to State Health Policy

Understanding the Importance of Public Health


Mohammad Ahkter, M.D., Executive Director, American Public Health Association, Washington, DC.

State and local policymakers are responsible for many public health activities that, over time, have proven effective in preventing disease, protecting the health of the public, and reducing health care expenditures.

The purpose of this session was to:

  • Review the roles and goals of public health and prevention activities.
  • Discuss essential public health services and application of cost-effectiveness concepts for prevention activities.
  • Give participants an opportunity to explore how public health activities fit into the context of health policy debates at the State level.

In this session, Mohammad Ahkter, M.D., Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) defined public health as the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting physical health and efficiency through organized community efforts.

Dr. Akhter indicated that the overall increase in the costs of health care, the rapid aging of the population, and technical advances in health services will require public health professionals, health care providers, and policymaking bodies to collaborate to provide high-quality, cost-effective public health services within communities throughout the country. He urged State policymakers to focus their attention on health planning, funding for public health initiatives, and oversight of public health programs.

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