What is public health? What makes a good public health practitioner? Word count: 658
The health of an individual is highly determined by the health of the population in defined settings. Therefore, we should widen our vision to go beyond the individual level and incorporate the health of the population i.e. public health. Public health is more about collective actions and implies the science and the art of enabling, and organizing the community so as to prevent disease, prolong life and promote health (Detels & Breslow 2002, p.3). The aim of public health is to provide the optimum level of health and standard of living to the population. This involves various functions such as health needs assessment, the formulation of health policies, the provision of cost-effective health services etc (Detels & Breslow 2002). This means public health is an interdisciplinary field and requires different actors, including policy makers, researchers, medical professionals, health professionals, epidemiologists, donors, managers and community leaders, at different levels (global, national and community) to practice its core functions. These actors practice public health through different approaches or discourses, the most prominent being disease control. From the Babylonian sewage system (Khaliq & Smego 2007) to Chadwick's intervention of sanitation (Hamlin 2002) in 1842 to date, disease control and prevention is the most commonly used discourse in public health and is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals. Other discourses in public health include environment health, social determinants and health inequalities, health economics, health management, health promotion, evidence based health and social justice. Which discourse is paid more attention depends on the key global actors, for instance the nation states, donors and global institutions. For example, the Gates Foundation, a philanthropic organization, aims mainly at developing and delivering vaccines,...
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