What is Public Health?
Public Health involves improving and protecting the health of communities through the combined efforts of research, education, and promotion of healthy lifestyle practices. Public Health science works through a partnership of community agencies to promote healthy lifestyles and the prevention of health problems. By following a proactive, preventive approach, public health professionals consider environment, genetics, and personal choice as factors influencing the overall health of a community. Using data collected through research, public health officials can then implement policies and programs designed to protect your health and the health of the community.
Public Health jobs differ from clinical professions such as medical or nursing by working to prevent health problems or issues from re-occurring within a neighborhood or larger community. Public Health professionals are involved in designing and implementing educational programs within the community, administering health services and information, as well as developing policies and procedures to safeguard public health. Other public health officials are involved in conducting research, and at times, regulating health care systems or health professions. Public health jobs primarily focus on prevention of disease, illness, or injury rather than treatment after the fact.
There is a lot of room for variety concerning public health jobs. The main academic disciplines that can prepare you for a Public Health degree include:
- Health Education & Behavioral Sciences
- Emergency Medical Services
- Behavioral Science/ Health Education
- Environmental Health
- Health Service Management/ Administration
- Global/ International Health
- Public Health Laboratory Practice
- Public Health Practice
- Public Health Policy
- Maternal and Child Health
Here are just a few ways these fields of study apply to Public Health.
Behavioral Science & Health Education
You no doubt are familiar with announcements and television clips reminding everyone of the importance of seat belt use, not texting while driving, the dangers of drug use or binge drinking, but you may not have realized before now that all these and more are public health promotions. Behavioral Science and Health Education specialists study ways to encourage individuals to make wise choices that promote a healthy lifestyle for themselves and others. Through behavioral science and health education, public health professionals are able to design and implement programs to encourage preventive health care practices and healthy lifestyle choices. Through health education programs, communities can learn to work together to safeguard their health and in doing so, promote a healthier and safer community.
Biostatistics examine the number of deaths within a community from a number of causes such as drunk driving, driving while texting, or gun violence. Biostatistics identifies trends, and uses statistical procedure, methodology, and techniques to determine causes and predict health trends that can then be addressed through education and community programs. Identifying environmental trends, examining causes, and identifying ways to prevent the recurrence of unhealthy trends remain an important aspect of public health. Biostatistics is often closely associated with epidemiology.
Public health professionals are often called upon to investigate widespread outbreaks of influenza, or food poisoning, to identify the source or cause of diseases, and control the spread of outbreaks. Epidemiologists are working daily as health detectives to determine the cause, and spread of a disease and identify who is at risk. Epidemiologists often identify demographic trends that may be responsible for disease or injury and then work with other public health professionals to prevent further outbreaks or spread of the disease.
Emergency Medical Services
State, regional, or community public health professionals are also involved in disaster preparedness and the training, licensing, and equipping of paramedics, EMTs and other emergency personnel. Emergency public health professionals work together with hospitals, fire departments, and private organizations to ensure a coordinated emergency responds system to provide rapid emergency care to communities at the time of disasters such as storms, floods, or bombings.
Many health care professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and others combine a degree in public health with their professional degree to merge public health practices and technology to improve their independent practices. If you are considering a Public Health degree or wonder about combining a Public Health degree with another major, The American Public Health Associate has great resources for anyone considering this field as a career option.