An Overview of the Public Health System in the United States

| Updated on March 27, 2024
Health System in the United States

The public health infrastructure of a country must be strong to ensure the welfare of the nation. This infrastructure comprises different components, including the qualified workforce, information systems, and agencies dealing with public health needs. As one of the citizens in the USA, you must learn about the United States public health system. You can click on title 17 California code of regulations, to know the relevant legal rules.

Presently, the infrastructure for public health in the United States includes different non-governmental and governmental entities-

  • More than 3,000 local health boards and health departments
  • 59 territorial and state health departments and tribal health departments
  • Over 160,000 private and public laboratories
  • Volunteer organizations like the Red Cross

The Public Health System in the USA also includes some organizations-

  • FDA
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • The National Institutes of Health
  • The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration
  • The Toxic Substances and Disease Registry agency 

Summary of Public Health Systems in the USA

We have briefly outlined details about different health agencies, their activities, and their allocation of important resources at local, state, and federal levels. The public health functions can categorize the activities of healthcare activities.

The federal government in the USA plays an important role in controlling the public healthcare system. It inspects the health needs and status of the public to pass legal rules and regulations. It also backs up research on health solutions and biomedical services. Moreover, it offers technical assistance while delivering health services. Furthermore, the Federal government allocates resources to local and state health care systems.

However, the government uses 2 major powers for doing these things-

The power to control interstate commerce

The power to impose a tax on the general public welfare

 The regulatory activities, like labeling hazardous components, are associated with the power of managing interstate commerce. There are also Medicare and Medicaid programs for providing health coverage to the low-income groups.

US Public Health Service is the major unit dealing with public health. Health Care Financing Administration is another unit relevant to it. Other federal sectors also include agencies that have health-related responsibilities.

How Does the State Government Play a Role in Public Health?

State governments have autonomy in providing public health solutions. State-level authorities are dealing with licensing, disease reporting, and domestic quarantine. State-level public health agencies have received funding from CDC. They can make cooperative deals, and the involved parties can set their goals. 

We can classify public health services into 2 ways-

  • Personal health services
  • Conventional population-based services like food inspection

The state-level health departments offer clinical solutions to some groups.

States can provide public health services by engaging state agencies. Thirty-five states in the USA have free-standing public health agencies. But, in other states, public health has become a part of the bigger agency. 

Some activities related to public health take place outside the major public health agency of the state. For instance, the environmental health organization in 36 states is isolated from the government’s health agency. There is also public safety department to provide emergency healthcare services. More than one government agency can take part in the food safety testing processes in some states.

Every state has delegated different levels of authority to the local government. Some local governments get minimal authority from the states. Local jurisdictions also play a role in managing public health issues.

While talking about the healthcare systems in America, it is important to learn about the relevant laws.

HCQIA- An Act of 1986

It refers to the Healthcare Quality Improvement Act ensuring immunity to medical institutions and professionals while conducting assessments. Different legislators enacted the legal rule to save medical specialists from the peer review-related proceedings. Due to this law, physicians get encouraged to file complaints officially after facing unethical and unprofessional peer conduct.


Low-income citizens can take advantage of this provision. Medicaid offers coverage for more than 70-million citizens in America. In 2014, the Medicaid program refunded hospitals for 50% of medical costs. Medicaid ensures coverage for different recipients like temporarily unemployed employees, disabled individuals, and uninsured expectant mothers.

Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program

Due to this program, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare services can minimize payout to healthcare facilities. HRRP started in 2012, and it defined readmissions of patients within 30 days. Patients with heart failure, pneumonia, and other similar conditions would get benefitted from the program.

Children’s Health Insurance Program

It has developed a strong basis for providing health coverage to kids in any low-income household. The CHIPRA Act of 2009 caused the origination of the CHIP program. It has successfully offered services to disqualified clients. The CHIP has a record of providing valuable insurance to underprivileged kids. It has also received funds from federal and state governments. The Affordable Care Act has increased the accessibility of the service to low-income children.

HIPAA of 1996

It is another Act to protect the health of American workers with health insurance policies. Moreover, the program enables workers to appeal for health insurance schemes. According to HIPAA, the policy applicants will find no discrimination. While the insurance agency has denied the application, the applicant can apply for insurance coverage outside the enrollment period.

Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act

According to this Act, healthcare staff will be safe from hazardous conditions. Legislators passed the legal rule to encourage medical error reporting and maintain the privacy rights of patients. There will be a penalty for violating confidentiality rules. Furthermore, AHRQ can publish patient safety organizations to record data. 

Affordable Care Act, 2010

Pres. Barak Obama approved the Act, which is a modified edition of the comprehensive coverage. Due to this Act, Americans can apply for affordable health insurance. Enterprises employing 200+ workers should offer health insurance coverage. Healthcare specialists get the chance of taking in the delivery of services to patients.

Although the US is a highly industrialized country, there is a lack of universal health insurance coverage. The country needs to take steps for better health outcomes and quality services. US hospitals and physicians must also make the right use of health IT systems.

Also Read: How to Market Health Business?

Priyam Ghosh

Tech and Internet Writer

Related Posts