Dr. John Sheehan
MB, BCH, BAO, DCH, DME, MICGP, MRCGP, MD
Over the past few months we have seen and heard from Pubic Health Experts regarding COVID-19. But what exactly is Public Health medicine? Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. This work is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases. Most of healthcare and medicine is concerned with diagnosing and treating the individual while Public Health Medicine is about promoting and preventing disease at the population level. Overall, public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. These populations can be as small as a local neighborhood, or as big as an entire country or region of the world.
Public health aims to improve the quality of life through prevention and treatment of disease, including mental health. This is done through the surveillance of cases and health indicators, and through the promotion of healthy behaviors.
Public Health has had many successes in reducing or eradicating different diseases over the years. Diseases such as Smallpox, Polio , TB Measles and Rubella (German Measles) have been largely controlled by vaccination programmes and public health measures.
Public health has been defined as “the science and art of preventing disease”, prolonging life and improving quality of life through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals. Analyzing the determinants of health of a population and the threats it faces is the basis for public health. In the case of a pandemic it may encompass several continents. The concept of health takes into account physical, psychological, and social well-being. As such, according to the World Health Organization, it is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity and more recently, a resource for everyday living.
Public health is an interdisciplinary field. For example, epidemiology, biostatistics, social sciences and management of health services are all relevant. Other important subfields include environmental health, community health, behavioral health, health economics, public policy, mental health, health education, occupational safety, disability, gender issues in health, and sexual and reproductive health.
Most governments recognize the importance of public health programs in reducing the incidence of disease, disability, and the effects of aging and other physical and mental health conditions. However, public health generally receives significantly less government funding compared with medicine. Although the collaboration of local health and government agencies is considered best practice to improve public health, the pieces of evidence available to support this is limited. Public health programs providing vaccinations have made strides in promoting health, including the eradication of smallpox, a disease that plagued humanity for thousands of years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies core functions of public health programs including; providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed; shaping a research agenda; monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends. In particular, public health surveillance programs can serve as an early warning system for impending public health emergencies;
It is now more important than ever that Countries cooperate in the fight regarding Covid.
The role of the Whole Health Organisation (WHO) should be supported by all countries.