By Safya Khan-Ruf
- Public Health can be defined as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organised efforts of society.” Disease does not obey border lines and the melting plot of cultures and languages necessitate effective communication in promoting global awareness. A clinician can make a difference in one person's life while public health can save hundreds, thousands or even millions of lives with the implementation of a public health procedure or policy. The small pox eradication programme is a global example of one of the most effective public health initiatives in history that potentially saved billions of lives.
The Centre for Disease Control has published a list of the greatest achievements of the first decade of the 21st century in public health:
• Vaccine-Preventable Diseases reduced
• Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases.
• Tobacco Control
• Maternal and Infant Health
• Motor Vehicle Safety
• Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
• Occupational Safety
• Cancer Prevention
• Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
• Public Health Preparedness and Response
All of these measures have saved countless lives in varying fields. The only common denominator to these issues were that they impacted health negatively on a local or even global level and that public health specialists were responsible for putting safety precautions and safeguards in action.
The public health sector has attracted more attention from governments thanks to an increase in public awareness: in the field of environmental protection for instance, the danger of toxic waste is now well known and the demand for experts in environmental health and industrial hygiene is growing. Greater importance is placed on health promotion and disease prevention as an economical means to safeguarding large populations. Incidents such the H1N1 virus outbreak or the anthrax bioterrorism emphasise the need to strengthen public health infrastructure to be ready for future threats.
So whether you want to vaccinate children in Kenya, promote breastfeeding in Pakistan or organise new health legalisations in the UK, the public health sector is for you.
What to do now?