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What Is Public Health

    Public health is defined as the science of protecting safety and improving health in communities through education, policy development, and disease and injury prevention research. Public health may differ from health care because rather than treating diseases and injuries, one patient at a time, public health is focused on the prevention of diseases and injuries within communities and populations. Instead, public health is focused on improving and protecting the health and wellbeing of communities, emphasizing prevention in broader populations. Public health officials–many of whom can earn public health degrees–work every day to ensure that people are healthy and safe, both locally and globally, through disease prevention and injury control.

    Those who have a public health degree make communities healthier by providing childrens well-being, preventing diseases, providing education, responding to natural disasters, providing clean water, ensuring health care, and much more. Public health is the science of protecting and improving population health–from neighborhoods to cities to countries to regions of the world–through education, promoting healthier living, researching disease prevention and injury, and detecting, preventing, and responding to infectious diseases. Public health involves organized efforts to detect and control diseases, promote healthy lifestyles, prevent injuries and illnesses, enhance diet, and emphasize meaningful sanitation. ACESONs influential 1988 definition states that public health is the science and art of preventing diseases, prolonging life, and promoting human health by organized efforts and informed choices by societies, organizations, the public and the private, communities, and individuals (Aceson; it captures well that public health is concerned with population health, has a forward-looking perspective, and requires social/collective actions often involving coordination between diverse sectors.

    In 1988, the Institute of Medicine published their famous report, The Future of Public Health, resulting in strategies for improving population-based public health efforts in controlling epidemics, reducing vaccine-preventable diseases, providing safe food and water, improving maternal and child health, and conducting research on health problems. During the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009, these improvements in the capacity to design and execute a coordinated community health emergency response contributed to the rapid identification and characterization of an outbreak, deployment of laboratory testing, dissemination of PPE from the National Strategic Reserve, the development of a vaccine candidate virus, and the wide-scale distribution of a resulting vaccine. The dramatic increase in average life spans in the late 19th and 20th centuries is widely attributed to public health achievements such as vaccination programs and control of many infectious diseases including polio, diphtheria, yellow fever, and smallpox; effective health and safety policies such as road traffic safety and occupational safety; improved family planning; tobacco control measures; and programs designed to reduce non-communicable diseases by acting on known risk factors such as a persons background, lifestyle, and environment. Public health experts have analyzed the effects of inheritance, individual choices, and environment on health in order to develop interventions and policies to protect family and community health, such as vaccination programs and education about the dangers of tobacco and alcohol.

    Environmental health scientists work to find out what foods can prevent cancer, and health policy analysts evaluate health insurance programs and develop recommendations. Others work at the broadest levels, developing policies and programs to support personal and community efforts for health, as well as evaluating the effectiveness, affordability, and quality of individual and population-based health services. These organizations conduct research and carry out population-based education and health initiatives: crafting laws and policies to make sure the public has nutritious foods to eat, clean water to drink, immunizations for those who are ill, and access to care. Organizations like the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and other government and nongovernmental agencies have an important role in health policies.

    Today, public health covers areas as diverse as epigenetics, chronic diseases, aging sciences, mental health, disaster response, refugee health, injury prevention, and tobacco control. The many faces of public health involve advocating laws promoting smoke-free indoor air and seatbelts, spreading awareness about ways to maintain good health, and providing scientifically sound solutions to problems. From normal human interactions involved in dealing with the many problems of social life has come the appreciation of the importance of community action in the promotion of health and in the prevention and treatment of illness, which is expressed in the concept of public health. From the earliest days of human civilization, communities promoted health and combated disease on a community-wide basis.

    To be inclusive is to include all activities that promoted health, prevented, mitigated, and treated illness, as well as actions that addressed the social and environmental determinants of health, which typically required changes in government policies as well as actions by communities. Common public health initiatives include promotion of hand-washing and breastfeeding, immunization distribution, suicide prevention, smoking cessation, obesity education, increased access to healthcare, and the distribution of condoms to curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

    Indeed, multidisciplinary, intersectoral initiatives have produced some of humanitys noteworthy public health victories, such as the control of communicable diseases, the reduction in transport-related injuries and deaths, the gains made in tobacco control, and a number of other major achievements of public health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1999). In 2016, NACCHO interviewed two groups to explore ways that partnerships can be used to enhance the health of communities. The Center for Public Health Shares, a national initiative led by Kansas Health Institute and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is now supporting a learning community of 16 teams around the country, consisting of public health agencies, policymakers, their partners, and key stakeholders who are working together to enhance their capacity to deliver public health services essential to public health, increase effectiveness, and control costs. Public health agencies, policymakers Public health agencies Their partners. other major subfields include environmental health, community health, behavioral health, health economics, public policy, mental health, health education, health policy, occupational safety, disabilities, gender issues in health, and sexual and reproductive health.

    Public health professionals seek to prevent problems from occurring or from happening again by implementing education programs, making policy recommendations, implementing services, and conducting research–in contrast with clinical professionals such as doctors and nurses, who mainly focus on treating individuals after they are sick or injured.

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