We are all hearing the term public health a lot lately. What does it mean?
The American Public Health Association is the main professional organization for people working in public health. They state that “Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play.” Health care providers such as doctors, nurses, physical therapists and dentists treat individuals. The focus is on diagnosing a medical problem and providing a treatment for it. People working in public health focus on many people. We think about how we can improve the health of an entire community or group. We look at causes of health problems and how we can change laws, the environment, communities, or organizations to improve the health of many. For example, people working in public health might help identify a cancer cluster in a location and then try to determine what the cause is.
For now, if you want to learn more about public health in general, take a look at this 5 minute video. Note the car crash example. If someone gets hurt in a crash, a doctor is the one who treats the injuries. People working in public health think about issues like whether the person is able to get the care they need, driving laws, road safety, and if the person has enough social support to help with their recovery.
In future blog posts, I will introduce you to different areas of public health and discuss how each one plays a role in addressing COVID-19. Some examples are health policy, epidemiology, community health, and my favorite, health communication.