The Future of Public Health

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FEBRUARY 9, 2011


It is important, as we move forward in health care, that public health has a more prominent role in our health care system. Public health in the United States is no longer responsible specifically for disease containment. It has taken on a new role in recent years. A big part of that role is prevention. While public health still has to manage disease control, it’s new role of providing the public with knowledge and the means for preventing disease and illness is a huge, yet exciting endeavor. As we move forward in health care, prevention is going to be a necessity. Let’s look at some of the ways public health has changed over the years and how that relates to health care delivery.

Traditionally, public health was created primarily to deal with disease control and outbreak containment. As medicine advanced in its ability to prevent such outbreaks, the role of public health shifted. With this shift the new term “population health” has appeared. “One definition for population health, provided by Kindig (2007), is that population health “is a conceptual framework for thinking about why some populations are healthier than others”.” (Bradford, 2008, p. 1) This term in public health refers to the broad need for preventative measures aimed at target groups or populations. The mission of Public health care today is to “promote physical and mental health; and to prevent disease, injury, and disability (” So what does that mean?

RUNNING HEAD: PUBLIC HEALTH 3 “Public health prevents epidemics and the spread of disease, protects against environmental hazards, prevents injuries, promotes and encourages healthy behaviors, responds to disasters, and assists communities in recovery, and also assures the quality and accessibility of health services” ( The essential public health services include:

* Monitor health status to identify community health problems * Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community * Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues * Mobilize community partnerships to identify and solve health problems * Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts * Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety * Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable * Assure a competent public health and personal health care workforce * Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services * Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems RUNNIN HEAD: PUBLIC HEALTH 4

With all of these new responsibilities, it is evident that support from all other parts of the healthcare system are essential to the success of the public (population) health mission. For example, the public health organizations alone cannot determine community health problems without the necessary reporting by neighborhood physicians. It is crucial that public health and the health care delivery system work together to reach these goals.

Traditionally, the health care delivery sector has focused on the treatment, rather than prevention, of illness and disease. In order for these two sectors of the health care system to work together there needs to be a common goal of prevention. “Progress on public health problems in a democratic society requires agreement about the mission and content of public health sufficient to serve as the basis for public action. There is [however], no clear agreement among public decision-makers, public health workers, private sector health organizations and personnel, and opinion leaders...
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