In the first five years of King County’s employee wellness program, from 2007 to 2011, the county spent $15 million on the program and saved $46 million. King County, Washington, launched its employee wellness program, “Healthy Incentives Program,” in 2006, in response to rising health care costs at 9.8 percent from 2001 to 2005.

While debate about improving the nation’s health care system continues, policymakers, health care experts and consumers essentially agree on three goals—improving patient care, creating healthier communities and reducing health care costs. States face huge challenges in developing successful strategies for broad population impact, and even bigger challenges for having a positive impact in rural areas and among certain disadvantaged population groups. Speakers addressed strategies for improving population health, increasing immunization coverage, and providing data to guide state decision-making.

Colorado’s commitment to be the healthiest state will be achieved through spending smarter, not necessarily more, according to Tom Massey, deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. “As health care itself changes, so must the way we finance health care,” Massey said. “We must reform our payment models so we get better quality and value.”

Research results can be used to make informed policy decisions to improve the effectiveness of state public health programs and improve the health of the population. Since research on what works is constantly being expanded, recommended public health policies and programs continually increases.

The State Policy Guide to Using Research in Public Health Policymaking describes a process of using this research and public health programs in each of these categories of research: cost-saving, cost-effective, good ideas, no consensus and policies to be discouraged.