COURSE NAME: PUBLIC HEALTH (SYB 126)
WHY IS PUBLIC HEALTH IMPORTANT
Your health is determined not only by your own genetics and personal choices, but also by the environment around you. We all strive to live long, healthy lives and where we live, work and play affects our health. If you care about your health, the length and quality of your life, and the health and lives of your friends and family, then you should care about public health and the one week out of the year dedicated to bettering the lives of you and your surroundings. Public health combats threats to health by implementing educational programs, developing policies, administering services, and conducting research. Over the last century, public health has lead to increased life expectancies, world-wide reduction in infant and child mortality, and the elimination or reduction of many communicable diseases. The focus of a public health intervention is to prevent and manage diseases, injuries and other health conditions through surveillance of cases and the promotion of healthy behaviors, communities and environments. Many diseases are preventable through simple, non-medical methods. For example, research has shown that the simple act of hand washing with soap can prevent many contagious diseases. Public health communications programs, vaccination programs, and distribution of condoms are examples of common public health measures. Measures such as these have contributed greatly to the health of populations and increases in life expectancy. The spread of disease or the quality of air and water are some of the more obvious ways in which the world around us affects our health. While your own genetics and personal choices are primary determinants of your health, the environment in which you live is another determinant. The task of public health is to investigate how the ecology of health affects our well-being, from social networks and economic circumstances to our environment, and then minimize health risks and promote better health for all of us. Public-health is also an important consideration at an international level. One area we consider is that of the activities of tobacco companies in developing countries and the concept of corporate social responsibility. It is well established that tobacco is a highly harmful product. In many developed countries, companies adhere to harm reduction strategies, such as bans on advertising and restricting the availability of tobacco to children. If tobacco companies are serious about their responsibilities, they will universalize such practices in all areas in which they operate. The dramatic achievements of Public Health in the 20th century have improved our quality of life: an increase in life expectancy, world wide reduction in infant and child mortality, and the elimination or reduction of many communicable diseases. One of the most important components of public health is its reliance on multi-sectoral partnerships. Multi-sectoral partnerships ensure that everyone has a role to play in public health activities and programs. This may include a new mother concerned about her baby’s hearing, an organization advocating reductions in childhood obesity, or a business group looking to develop healthy policies in the workplace.
Improving the health of our populations often requires changing personal health habits. Health care providers work with high-risk populations in an effort to change these behaviours. However, bringing about change takes time and requires a combination of education, community development and healthy public policy. Public health professionals and organizations are adept at assessing and analyzing population health issues, interpreting evidence and research to guide the development of health policies and programs, and working with a variety of partners to address population health issues. The mission of the public health system includes its goals at any point in time and how, at the conceptual level, these goals are operationalized. At the beginning of the 21st century, the mission of public health is to ensure conditions in which people can be healthy. The structural capacity of the public health system is the cumulative resources and relationships necessary to carry out the important processes of public health. Structural capacity includes the following elements: information resources, organizational resources, physical resources, human resources, and fiscal resources. The practice of public health can be thought of in terms of the key processes through which practitioners seek to identify, address, and prioritize community or population-wide health problems and resources and the outputs of these more fundamental processes, public health’s interventions, policies, regulations, programs, and services.The processes of public health are those that identify and address health problems as well as the programs and services consistent with mandates and community priorities. The immediate and long-term changes experienced by individuals, families, communities, providers, and populations are the system’s outcomes, the cumulative result of the interaction of the public health system’s structural capacity and processes, given the macro context and the system’s mission and purpose. Outcomes can be used to provide information about the system’s overall performance, including its efficiency, effectiveness, and ability to achieve equity between populations. The achievements of public health have improved our quality of life: An increase in life expectancy Worldwide reduction in infant and child mortality, and the elimination or reduction of many communicable diseases. While modern clinical medicine is critical, public health is largely responsible for a 25-year increase in life expectancy across industrialized nations in the 20th century (Naylor, 2003). With so many factors affecting public health, including the re-emergence and emergence of infectious diseases, increasing awareness about health inequalities, chronic conditions associated with our aging population, and health effects linked to environmental factors, such as pollution, today strong public health leadership is more important than ever. The four essential public health strategies: Health promotion - strategies that range from health advocacy for change in public policy, to partnership building and coalition development for healthy communities, to health education that develop personal skills for health Health protection – strategies that protect people through legislation, regulation, inspection and, if need be, enforcement and prosecution Preventive interventions – primordial prevention, primary prevention and early secondary prevention that include immunization, counselling, screening and early detection, and prophylactic or in some cases preventive treatments Health assessment and disease surveillance – strategies critical for recognizing outbreaks, monitoring health status and determinants of health, and assessing the effectiveness of public health programs and services