AHRQ Views

Blog posts from AHRQ leaders

Jeffrey Brady M.D., M.P.H.This week is National Public Health Week, a time to recognize the accomplishments of public health and highlight public health resources that can improve our nation’s health and health care.

A well-known AHRQ resource, the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, or QDR, offers a valuable contribution to this important health observance. Mandated by Congress and published annually since 2003, this report provides a comprehensive overview of the quality of health care Americans receive. It also documents disparities in care that some racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups experience. The new 2015 report is scheduled for publication in May this year.

The QDR addresses the three aims under the National Quality Strategy: better care, more affordable care, and healthy communities. These aims guide local, State, and national efforts for improving health care quality.

The aim of better care has long been the core of AHRQ’s patient safety work. As the lead patient safety agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, AHRQ has generated, accumulated, disseminated, and ushered into practice a wealth of knowledge about how to make care safer. The good news is that our collective efforts are paying off.  We applaud the dedication of hard-working clinicians and health care professionals throughout the country. The national progress we are measuring is based on their important individual accomplishments—one patient and one provider at a time.  AHRQ is proud to have supported this success with the practical knowledge that has been produced as a result of our research programs. 

Harm is occurring less frequently in hospitals, according to a report AHRQ released last year. We estimate that 87,000 lives were saved and $20 billion in excess costs were avoided thanks to a 17 percent decline in hospital-acquired conditions (HAC) from 2010 to 2014.

We have included additional information about these improvements in patient safety and our estimates of the positive impacts that they have had on public health in AHRQ’s Chartbook on Patient Safety released last month. The analysis shows that approximately 2.1 million fewer harmful events occurred over the 2010-2014, four-year period.  The overall HAC rate declined from 145 per 1,000 hospital stays in 2010 to 121 per 1,000 stays in 2013, remaining at that lower rate in 2014. Also, central line-associated bloodstream infections during hospital inpatient care decreased 46 percent between 2006 and 2013.

This unprecedented improvement was possible thanks to concerted national efforts that brought together public and private stakeholders working toward common goals, a characteristic that is common to other public health accomplishments.  Much of the research and many of the tools that were used in these efforts were developed from AHRQ’s patient safety research portfolio. AHRQ’s role as the nation’s lead patient safety agency is threefold:

  • Fund the research that shows what needs to be done to make care safer.
  • Develop the tools and training that shows health care providers how to apply the research.
  • Bring this knowledge to the field through widespread implementation.

The Chartbook on Patient Safety is just one example of how information from the QDR depicts a compelling story about specific public health challenges. An entire series of chartbooks is planned and began in February with the release of the Chartbook on Health Care for Blacks. This week, coinciding with National Public Health Week, we are releasing the Healthy Living Chartbook, which summarizes trends across measures of healthy living. It is organized according to five topic areas that cut across clinical conditions: Maternal and Child Health Care, Lifestyle Modification, Clinical Preventive Services, Functional Status Preservation and Rehabilitation, and Supportive and Palliative Care.

One goal of public health is to build a healthy nation in which everyone can access and receive quality care regardless of race, gender, insurance status, or zip code. This week, AHRQ joins the American Public Health Association in celebrating National Public Health Week. Let’s keep working toward the goal of becoming the healthiest nation in one generation.

Page last reviewed April 2016
Page originally created April 2016
Internet Citation: AHRQ’s Ongoing Contribution to Improving Public Health. Content last reviewed April 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/blog/ahrqviews/ahrq’s-ongoing-contribution-to-improving-public-health.html