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, and evaluation of the effectiveness of that care.
There are many distinctions that can be made between public health and the clinical health professions. While public health is comprised of many professional disciplines such as medicine, dentistry, nursing, optometry, nutrition, social work, environmental sciences, health education, health services administration, and the behavioral sciences, its activities focus on entire populations rather than on individual patients.
Doctors usually treat individual patients one-on-one for a specific disease or injury. Public health professionals monitor and diagnose the health concerns of entire communities and promote healthy practices and behaviors to assure our populations stay healthy.
One way to illustrate some of the breadth of public health is to look at some of the notable public health achievements in the 20th century. The following were selected as the “Ten Great Public Health Achievements — United States, 1900-1999” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Vaccination Vaccination has resulted in the eradication of smallpox; elimination of poliomyelitis in the Americas; and control of measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and other infectious diseases in the United States and other parts of the world.
Motor-vehicle safety Improvements in motor-vehicle safety have resulted from engineering efforts to make both vehicles and highways safer and from successful efforts to change personal behavior (e.g., increased use of safety belts, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets and decreased drinking and driving). These efforts have contributed to large reductions in motor-vehicle-related deaths.
Safer workplaces Work-related health problems, such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung), and silicosis — common at the beginning of the century — have come under better control. Severe injuries and deaths related to mining, manufacturing, construction, and transportation also have decreased; since 1980, safer workplaces have resulted in a reduction of approximately 40% in the rate of fatal occupational injuries.
Control of infectious diseases Control of infectious diseases has resulted from clean water and improved sanitation. Infections such as typhoid and cholera transmitted by contaminated water, a major cause of illness and death early in the 20th century, have been reduced dramatically by improved sanitation. In addition, the discovery of antimicrobial therapy has been critical to successful public health efforts to control infections such as tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke have resulted from risk-factor modification, such as smoking cessation and blood pressure control coupled with improved access to early detection and better treatment. Since 1972, death rates for coronary heart disease have decreased 51%.
- Public health school
A school designed to teach public health and train public health professionals. The first school of public health in the US, the School of Hygiene and Public Health, was founded in 1916 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
- Public Health Service, United States (USPHS)
There currently are more than 6,100 officers on active duty. Officers are assigned to all of the PHS Agencies and to a number of agencies outside of PHS, including the Bureau of Prisons, U. S. Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, Health Care Financing Administration, and the Commission on Mental Health of the District of Columbia.
- Public mourning
The public display of grief. This may take many forms ranging from the very formal to the very informal, from stately funeral ceremonies designed to evoke a sense of meaning beyond the ephemeral to spontaneous shrines where people leave flowers, flags and personal mementos for the dead. The public display of grief has waxed and […]
- PUBS (percutaneous umbilical blood sampling)
In percutaneous umbilical blood sampling, a needle is inserted through the mother’s abdominal wall and uterine wall. Blood can be withdrawn from the umbilical vein at the point where the umbilical cord inserts (goes) into the placenta. Blood may also be taken from the umbilical vein on its way to the fetal liver. percutaneous umbilical […]
- Puerperal fever
“Puerperal fever is caused by conveyance to the pregnant woman of putrid particles derived from living organisms, through the agency of the examining fingers……. Consequently must I make my confession that God only knows the number of women whom I have consigned prematurely to the grave.”