The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of smart public health strategies to improve health outcomes. Here are some real-world examples of public health in action and recommendations for how to move forward so that everyone is afforded an opportunity to live positive, healthy, and safe lives.
There has been a renewed focus nationally and internationally on “public health” in these times. When talking about the action of public health, this means promoting and ensuring the health and well-being of the “collective.” Public health involves the implementation of measures and efforts that affect everyone – it is population-centered. The key with public health is in “prevention” – it is intended to prevent problems from happening in the first place.
Being more proactive and less reactive is the key to prevention in public health, and this is now more apparent than ever. Ensuring public health has always been an important aspect of sustaining communities, but the coronavirus pandemic, cases of police brutality, high unemployment and other recent challenges have highlighted the continued importance of public health.
Social, environmental and personal factors influence our health and outcomes. This is why it is important to implement public health measures in order to change outcomes and improve livelihoods. In the case of coronavirus, practices like wearing masks, social distancing and proper sanitation can make a difference by reducing exposure and harm. As another example, at Counter Tools we provide education and help our partners collect data, implement policy and strengthen their tobacco control programs, which are effective measures in ensuring less addiction, disease and death from smoking.
There are many other examples of public health practices, such as…
- Food safety standards (ingredient labeling, allergen information) were established to ensure awareness and reduce sickness.
- Seatbelts were created and are utilized to keep people safer while driving.
- Vaccinations/immunizations are used to ensure greater protections from common ailments like the flu, meningitis, whooping cough, chickenpox and measles.
- Housing initiatives, like affordable housing, ensure those who need shelter and affordable living are provided it.
- Water filtration systems are employed to ensure safe drinking water and water fluoridation protects against tooth decay.
- Gloves, masks, and handwashing procedures are used in healthcare settings to prevent infections.
- Use of mosquito nets/bed nets act as a barrier to protect against insect-borne diseases like malaria, zika virus, and dengue fever.
- Creation of bike paths, sidewalks, and outdoor spaces like parks ensure people can exercise and travel safely.
- Establishment of smoke-free places reduces secondhand smoke exposure.
- Investment in education ensures people are given a chance to learn and gain more opportunities.
- Access to therapy and counseling provides for greater mental health.
- Availability of public transportation, like bus systems and railways, ensure people can access opportunity and live freely.
These examples above show the importance and reach of public health in our everyday lives. Not only can we personally ensure our health and wellness, but our “built environment” (i.e., what we have access to) ensures our health as well. Find more examples of how public health has shaped our lives from Johns Hopkins University’s “100 Objects That Shaped Public Health” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Ten Great Public Health Achievements — United States, 2001-2010.”
There are many public health issues in the world today, so what can we do about them?
…We have to ensure everyone is afforded equal protections. This means implementing public health measures across the board that help reduce disparities between populations, prevent adverse health outcomes, and lead to greater long-term health for all communities. This means “building up” our built environment and providing more resources for everyone such as affordable housing, access to healthy food, and transportation.
…We need to bring more seats to the table and allow everyone to be “seen and heard”. This means asking more questions of people that are not in our immediate circles and creating more dialogue in our communities.
…We have to continue to support one other and stand united. We should ask questions like, How can “we” figure this out? How can “we” best help each other?
…And lastly, we have to stay resilient and find strength in hard times. Keeping health at the forefront will ensure this resiliency and strength is sustained.
Change comes from a lot of small actions put together. So, if we all do a part, we can ensure a collective future, one where we are all afforded an opportunity to live positive, healthy and safe lives.