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What is Public Health?

From the American Public Health Association:

Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play.

While a doctor treats people who are sick, those of us working in public health try to prevent people from getting sick or injured in the first place. We also promote wellness by encouraging healthy behaviors.

From conducting scientific research to educating about health, people in the field of public health work to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. That can mean vaccinating children and adults to prevent the spread of disease. Or educating people about the risks of alcohol and tobacco. Public health sets safety standards to protect workers and develops school nutrition programs to ensure kids have access to healthy food.

Public health works to track disease outbreaks, prevent injuries and shed light on why some of us are more likely to suffer from poor health than others. The many facets of public health include speaking out for laws that promote smoke-free indoor air and seatbelts, spreading the word about ways to stay healthy and giving science-based solutions to problems.

Public health saves money, improves our quality of life, helps children thrive and reduces human suffering.

The 10 Essential Public Health Services

The 10 Essential Public Health Services (EPHS) describe the public health activities that all communities should undertake to achieve equity.  To achieve equity, the Essential Public Health Services actively promote policies, systems, and overall community conditions that enable optimal health for all and seek to remove systemic and structural barriers that have resulted in health inequities. Such barriers include poverty, racism, gender discrimination, ableism, and other forms of oppression. Everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to achieve optimal health and well-being.

  1. Assess and monitor population health status, factors that influence health, and community needs and assets
  2. Investigate, diagnose, and address health problems and hazards affecting the population
  3. Communicate effectively to inform and educate people about health, factors that influence it, and how to improve it
  4. Strengthen, support, and mobilize communities and partnerships to improve health
  5. Create, champion, and implement policies, plans, and laws that impact health
  6. Utilize legal and regulatory actions designed to improve and protect the public’s health
  7. Assure an effective system that enables equitable access to the individual services and care needed to be healthy
  8. Build and support a diverse and skilled public health workforce
  9. Improve and innovate public health functions through ongoing evaluation, research, and continuous quality improvement
  10. Build and maintain a strong organizational infrastructure for public health

Some examples of the many fields of public health:

  • First responders
  • Restaurant inspectors
  • Health educators
  • Scientists and researchers
  • Nutritionists
  • Community planners
  • Social workers
  • Epidemiologists
  • Public health physicians
  • Public health nurses
  • Occupational health and safety professionals
  • Public policymakers
  • Sanitarians

Learn more by visiting the American Public Health Association

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