What is Public Health? Public Health is an ideology: best evidence and data create cost-effective, preventative solutions.
To many, the words public health conjure images of vaccines, health inspectors, and food recall warnings. This is for good reason, as much of the current service provision offered by public health center around fundamental practices with undeniable positive population-level health outcomes. For much of the world, promotion of handwashing, breastfeeding, vaccinations, use of condoms, and clean drinking water will have the largest impact for the greatest number of individuals. However, at the core of these incredibly cost saving ideas are the central tenants of public health: prevention, and the uses of both population-level data, and the best available scientific evidence. Public Health is interdisciplinary, working between and across sectors to forecast problems, and intervene in the most cost-effective manner. Its principles and methods can be applied to almost any problem to develop creative and cost-effective solutions.
The ethos of prevention is intuitive: work upstream to anticipate and avoid costly and burdensome outcomes later. Unfortunately, prevention has become a buzzword of late, eliciting passing acknowledgement in many works and not the deep consideration it deserves. True prevention must consider a broad scope of factors, ranging from individual circumstances to the multitude of environmental influences on a problem. In public health, these factors are described as the social and cultural determinants of health. Only with a complete understanding of the relevant considerations can the large toolbox at public health's disposal be utilized effectively.
Identifying trends, anticipating needs, and understanding the size and effects of influencing factors requires useful data. Fundamental to public health is the collection and analysis of population-level data. Which data points to capture, how they are collected & measured, and the deep quantitative and qualitative analysis that follows are principal among a public health specialist's expertise. Useful data can provide the foundation for creative solutions to problems across the various sectors connected to public health.
To action anticipatory interventions requires a concrete understanding of the best available evidence. Evidence can refer to best or leading practices, novel research, innovative products, emerging policies and much more. Comprehensive evidence interpretation - ensuring proper study methodologies, applications of statistics, control of variables, application in a given political and economic environment - is done poorly and infrequently in today's fast-paced environment. There are a body of skills, and fields of study within the umbrella of public health that facilitate the highest quality form of this work. Epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, community health, behavioral health, health economics, public policy, health promotion and many more all intersect at public health.
What is Public Health? Public Health is an ideology: best evidence and data create cost-effective, preventative solutions.The broad skill-base of a public health specialist allows for the generation of evidence-informed, data-driven, upstream solutions that agencies rightfully demand.