Toward Population Health: Rethinking the Mission of Health Systems

Blog post by Brian Castrucci @BrianCCastrucci

There are simply far too many people dying too soon from illness that we know how to prevent.  We have long turned to medical care as a savior to improve our health, but the medical model, which was so effective in ameliorating acute disease, is, by itself, incapable of making the changes that address the root causes of disease.  Issues like chronic disease, violence, substance misuse require input and involvement from partners from all disciplines and sectors. It’s not just hospitals and public health agencies, but transportation departments, housing authorities, businesses, and schools that need to be part of our strategies and solutions for better health.

For example, in Chicago, competing hospital systems are supporting Healthy Chicago 2.0, a community initiative spearheaded by the public health department. In the 37 communities that are a part of the BUILD Health Challenge, hospitals match the grant and sit with a community-based organization and the public health department in a collaborative partnership. Hospitals like these and others are sharing data, working on community health needs assessments, and acting as anchor institutions. A 2016 resource from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation titled Creating Effective Hospital-Community Partnerships to Build a Culture of Health adds seven additional case studies.

To facilitate collaboration and show examples of successful partnerships, the de Beaumont Foundation partnered with the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and the Duke Community & Family Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine to create the Practical PlaybookThe Practical Playbook: Public Health and Primary Care Together (2015) addressed the need for linkages between public health and primary care. The tools and evidence-based guidance provided helped change perspectives and forge active partnerships between public health and medical societies, primary care practices, health systems, and others. As the need to actively engage more sectors to improve health, last month, the follow-up was published, Practical Playbook II: Building Multisector Partnerships That Work. This new resource collects and shares the stories, tools, and experiences of leaders across sectors who have engaged and mobilized multiple sectors toward community-wide initiatives to improve health.

This twitter chat, “Toward Population Health: Rethinking the Mission of Health Systems,” is open to all professionals who want to contribute to the conversation about the role of healthcare providers, hospitals, and health systems in improving the health of entire communities. Improvement in our individual and collective health will also require leadership from public health and healthcare, but also the input, cooperation, and engagement of leaders from housing, education, business, and transportation.  Only together can we effectively create a community culture that places a shared premium on health.

Please join me on Tuesday June 11th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) when I will be hosting the #hcldr discussion on the following topics:

  • T1 Thinking back on some of the best partnerships you’ve been a part of, how did that partnership form? What made it so good?
  • T2 What are ways that providers can improve community-wide health and not just the needs of their patients? What kinds of partnerships are needed to do that?
  • T3 What are the obstacles to partnering with health departments, businesses, and community organizations?
  • T4 Who are other partners that healthcare organizations can/should collaborate with? Why hasn’t it happened?

About the Author

Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, MA, is the president and chief executive officer of the de Beaumont Foundation. He has built the Foundation into a leading voice in health philanthropy and public health practice.An award-winning epidemiologist with 10 years of experience working in state and local health departments, Brian brings a unique perspective to the philanthropic sector that allows him to shape and implement visionary and practical initiatives and partnerships and bring together research and practice to improve public health.

Under his leadership, the de Beaumont Foundation is advancing policy, building partnerships, and strengthening the public health system to create communities where people can achieve their best possible health. Among the projects he has spearheaded are CityHealth, the BUILD Health Challenge, and the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS). He is also an editor and contributing author to The Practical Playbook, published by Oxford University Press in 2015 and 2019.

Brian has published more than 70 articles in the areas of public health systems and services research, maternal and child health, health promotion, and chronic disease prevention. His recent work has focused on the public health needs of large cities, the need for better data systems, and public health system improvements.

Brian earned his Doctorate in Public Health Leadership at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from North Carolina State University and a Master of Arts degree in sociomedical sciences from Columbia University.


Lynch, Jess, et al. “Case Study: The Alliance for Health Equity: Hospitals, Health Departments, and Community Partners Working Together for Health Equity in Chicago and Suburban Cook County”, Practical Playbook,, accessed 5 June 2019

“Creating effective hospital-community partnerships to build a Culture of Health”, Chicago, IL: Health Research & Educational Trust, August 2016,, accessed 5 June 2019

Image Credit

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

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