Ensuring public health's future in a national-scale learning health system

Am J Prev Med. 2015 Apr;48(4):480-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2014.11.013. Epub 2015 Feb 18.


Data and information are fundamental to every function of public health and crucial to public health agencies, from outbreak investigations to environmental surveillance. Information allows for timely, relevant, and high-quality decision making by public health agencies. Evidence-based practice is an important, grounding principle within public health practice, but resources to handle and analyze public health data in a meaningful way are limited. The Learning Health System is a platform that seeks to leverage health data to allow evidence-based real-time analysis of data for a broad range of uses, including primary care decision making, public health activities, consumer education, and academic research. The Learning Health System is an emerging endeavor that is gaining support throughout the health sector and presents an important opportunity for collaboration between primary care and public health. Public health should be a key stakeholder in the development of a national-scale Learning Health System because participation presents many potential benefits, including increased workforce capacity, enhanced resources, and greater opportunities to use health information for the improvement of the public's health. This article describes the framework and progression of a national-scale Learning Health System, considers the advantages of and challenges to public health involvement in the Learning Health System, including the public health workforce, gives examples of small-scale Learning Health System projects involving public health, and discusses how public health practitioners can better engage in the Learning Health Community.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Communication
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Decision Making
  • Evidence-Based Practice*
  • Forecasting
  • Government Regulation
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Preventive Medicine / trends*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Public Health Practice*
  • United States