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It’s been nearly a year since KHN’s “What the Health?” podcast took a deep dive into public health, and much has changed. Covid, in various versions, is still infecting people around the world, along with other communicable diseases including monkeypox and even polio. Yet public health remains a divisive issue, with politicians and the public alike arguing over how best to protect the community without trampling on individuals’ rights.

Earlier this summer, the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a National Public Health System called for a major overhaul of the way the U.S. organizes, funds, and communicates about public health. The report includes specific recommendations for the Biden administration, Congress, state and local public health agencies, and medical and public health professionals.

In this special episode, “What the Health?” host Julie Rovner and KHN Midwest correspondent Lauren Weber interview the commission’s chair, Dr. Margaret Hamburg. Hamburg is a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, former assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and a former New York City commissioner of health.

Hamburg said the commission is advocating for stronger federal leadership and the development of a national system that better integrates and coordinates public health efforts. That includes work with states and localities but also having federal health officials coordinate with other federal departments, such as Education and Transportation, to streamline public health initiatives. She also noted it’s imperative to improve data collection and communication with the public.

Public health, she said, must be seen as a key element of public safety.

You can read the commission’s report here.

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Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.