I’m pretty sure everyone in Public Health knows what Public Health is, but when it comes to those they serve, most don’t have any idea.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) says it a bit differently but with the same meaning; Public health refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole.
According to the WHO, the three main public health functions are:
- The assessment and monitoring of the health of communities and populations at risk to identify health problems and priorities.
- The formulation of public policies designed to solve identified local and national health problems and priorities.
- To assure that all populations have access to appropriate and cost-effective care, including health promotion and disease prevention services.
Public health departments not only provide quality clinical services, they also work closely with schools, federal and state health agencies, and private providers every day to increase awareness, provide safe environments, and educate and reach out to those who need it.
“Public health organizations have an opportunity to advocate for health in every policy, especially when these organizations reside within a local government. By being part of the system, they can work collaboratively with elected officials and staff to ensure that, for example, master plans include pedestrian and bike friendly streets, parks and trails, and access to healthy foods in every neighborhood. When public health partners with policy makers, more equitable conditions can be created for all residents in a community” says Jan O’Neill, MPA, Community Coach, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.
“Much of our work produces conditions that, while they may be appreciated, are not associated with public health—like clean water, safe food in restaurants, and healthy children. These are things people value but don’t link to public health.” says Anna Schenck, Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, UNC Gillings Schools of Global Public Health.
Public health is like that perfect waiter or waitress that always keeps your coffee cup filled, just when you want it, without you ever even noticing them. And just like that perfect server, public health is all around you, making it easier for us all to make healthy choices.