How the Affordable Care Act is Growing Population Health

Liz bio photo
Liz Conlin
VP Client Service Director
June 7, 2019
June 7, 2019

You are all probably aware of the challenges to the Affordable Care Act. The media and political conversations focus on how a repeal or repeal and replace legislation would affect insurance coverage and those with pre-existing conditions. While that is a vital ingredient to the legislation, what is not widely known is how instrumental this legislation has been to the growth of “Population Health” initiatives.

What exactly is Population Health?

Population health has been defined as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals.” It is an approach to health that aims to improve the health of our population including specific groups of people who are at higher risk for health issues (see how the American Hospital Association defines population health). A priority is to maximize health impact through prevention and reduce health inequities or disparities among different population groups due to social, environmental, cultural and physical factors.

Thanks to provisions within the ACA, the new model goes beyond health care delivery to encourage and incentivize health care providers and organizations to accept a larger role in partnering with public health agencies, community-based organizations, schools, businesses and others to identify and solve the complex problems that contribute to poor health.

As health care marketers these programs allow for creative and innovative opportunities to educate communities about creating healthy habits and changing poor health behaviors. To bring these programs to light, here are a few examples of the exciting population health programs that have been developed in Southeast Michigan in response to the National Prevention Strategy commissioned through the Affordable Care Act.

Place-Based Programs

Unlike traditional health care marketing that focused on the hospital or physician office as the center of care, population health initiatives strive to bring “place-based” programs to where people live and work.  Here is a great example in our own backyard:

  • 5 Healthy Towns: 
    In southeast Michigan, the 5 Healthy TownsFoundation invests $350,000 annually into mostly free programs that aim to improve personal and community wellness in Chelsea, Dexter, Grass Lake, Manchester and Stockbridge. The programs are focused on a certain population, but everyone is welcome. All money is used to make sure that everyone has access.  5 Healthy Towns-funded programs have included everything from trails, pathways and free yoga in the parks to tokens for farmers market produce and scholarships to community wellness centers. 5 Healthy Towns funding has helped local hospitals and schools collaborate on a substance abuse program impacting youth, supported a residential facility for severely disabled adults and created movement programs for elders.



Disease Prevention

Chronic disease intervention is another key priority for population health efforts. Diabetes is a leading U.S health problem. Here is one such example of a prevention program to help prevent diabetes and kidney disease:

  • Diabetes Prevention Center: The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan approached re:group to help them develop a website to market their prediabetes prevention program. Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure. In Michigan, 2.6 million (8.2% of the population) people have prediabetes and one in 10 adults has diabetes.Without changing lifestyle habits, 15–30% of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes within five years. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is part of the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program. It helps people at risk learn how to make lifestyle changes and stick to them. The DPP reduces the risk of new cases of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%, and by 71%in people over the age of 60.

Reducing Health Disparities

Many population health initiatives focus on the social determinants of health and the inequities that certain groups face in our communities. One such example is the issue of infant mortality among African American babies in Kalamazoo.

  • Cradle KalamazooThe Kalamazoo County infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the state of Michigan. While the overall infant mortality rate has decreased in the last 30 years, the disparity among babies of color and white babies has increased. In Kalamazoo, babies of color are four times more likely to die before their first birthday than their white neighbors. Cradle Kalamazoo’s mission is to get the support to those who need it the most. They work with women and families that are at high risk due to economic factors, previous adverse birth outcomes, and/or race. Cradle Kalamazoo offers programs in the following areas: Health Equity, Family Support Services, Reproductive Health and Safe Sleep.

These programs represent a small fraction of the programs across the U.S that receive local, state and federal funding to address prevention, reduce health disparities and expand the evidence base so that we can have a positive impact on population health.  The next time you hear news about the ACA, keep in mind that population health programs are a key component of this legislation.

Here at REGROUP, we’re passionate about healthcare. If you are looking for help with your population health marketing efforts, please get in touch with us.