American Health Planning Association © 1996 - 2024


AHPA supports community participation in health policy formulation and in the organization and operation of local health services. AHPA believes that the public interest and the nation's health require:

AHPA's basic mission remains, as it has been for more than 40 years, the promotion and improvement of community-based health service planning and decision-making. That mission is ever more critical because our health care system remains a study in contrasts. New technologies and therapeutic treatments promise to improve health care outcomes, yet access to both basic and specialized services remains beyond the financial reach of millions. Health care costs remain a source of concern for businesses, policyrnakers, and the public, yet a growing number of critical health providers find themselves in dire fiscal straits. Many communities lack a basic health care infrastructure and suffer from a dearth of facilities and personnel to serve vulnerable populations, whereas in other areas an oversupply of providers and the resulting competition for paying patients threatens the fiscal stability of many institutions. Despite much progress, striking disparities in health care access and outcomes persist on the basis of race,income, and geography.

Against this backdrop, competitive forces have swept through the system over the past decade. Many proponents of competition continue to call for the end of formal health planning processes and mechanisms, arguing that such " top down" efforts are unnecessary and counterproductive in a competitive marketplace. Evidence from the past decade, however, reaffrms the urgency of revitalizing health planning in the United States. AHPA recognizes the continuing and crucial role of planning in improving our health care system and health care outcomes. Planning offers a unique vehicle for introducing the values of key stakeholders, including payers, providers, and the public, into health care policy discussions. By encouraging participation and collaboration among stakeholders, it empowers both individuals and communities and increasingly serves as a social conscience for the growing power of the marketplace.

Planning remains at the nexus of health care policy and regulatory choices as we enter a new century. At its core, health planning promotes the active participation of stakeholders and the public in efforts to improve the system. Planning is not antithetical to the operation of competitive markets, for all successful markets rely upon some degree of public oversight. Rather than undermining markets, health planning facilitates the development of a " responsible" marketplace that harnesses the power of competition to achieve socially desirable ends. Unfettered competition in health care can both threaten quality and impede access to the healthcare system itself. By articulating core values such as access, quality, collaboration, and community participation in policy debates, planners promote accountability and help to make visible community needs that might otherwise be obscured by market forces.

Ultimately, planning promotes efficiency, equity, and security by providing a voice for the uninsured and the under-served in our communities. The enduring challenge of making the healthcare system more accountable to ordinary citizens and communities remains.



In Brief