The Role of Law and Policy in Addressing Healthcare-Associated Infections

Did you know that one in 31 U.S. hospital patients has a healthcare-associated infection at any given time? These infections result in over $33 billion in potentially preventable health care costs annually.

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections that people acquire while they are receiving treatment for another condition. Infections can be acquired through catheters, surgery, injections, communicable diseases and overuse of antibiotics. HAIs can happen wherever health care is administered including hospitals, outpatient settings as well as long-term care facilities.

The Healthy People 2020 Law and Health Policy project plays a role in preventing these infections. Yesterday the Healthy People 2020 and Health Policy Project, a collaboration among the CDC Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services held a webinar that highlighted the efforts of states and health systems in implementing laws and policies to reduce HAIs.

The goal of the Healthy People 2020 Law and Health Policy project is to highlight how evidence-based legal and policy interventions and strategies can facilitate progress toward Healthy People objectives by improving community health and well-being. Many public health successes in the U.S. are the result of legal or policy interventions including smoke-free air laws and mandatory seatbelt laws.

Since 2004, laws encouraging the prevention and reduction of HAIs have emerged and expanded. Some include new authorities for states to create HAIs programs and the regulations and policies necessary to implement them, including mandating the reporting of HAIs, and licensure and training requirements for either healthcare providers and/or facilities themselves, which can promote adoption of best practices and result in severe penalties for violations.

The CDC Foundation is pleased to collaborate on this important initiative, which provides the opportunity to make us a healthier nation.

Amy Tolchinsky is the communications director for the CDC Foundation.