Colleen Moran, MPH MS
Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellow
Wisconsin Division of Public Health
Public Health is cool, right? Well, I suppose it depends upon whom you ask. This became a topic of discussion the other day - how do we "rebrand" public health? How do we communicate what it is and how cool it is? Most of the time when I tell people I work in public health, they ask me something regarding primary care, something clinical. I have to gently let them know that I'm not in, "that kind of health," that, "I work in prevention - I try to change the environments we live, work, learn and play in, and incorporate health into policies, to make the healthy choice the easy choice, so that fewer people have to visit the clinic," I'm usually met with a blank stare and the inevitable followup question: "so what is it exactly that you do?"
That question, a good one I might add, is what I dedicate my blog post to today. I'd like to answer that question of "what is it that I do" and in the process, try to explain just how amazingly cool public health really is. So in recognition of National Public Health Week, this blog post is dedicated to celebrating the great successes public health has accomplished so far, while also focusing on where the future lies for the world of public health. And hopefully along the way I'll answer that nagging question.
How Far We've Come . . .
Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century
- Motor-Vehicle Safety
- Workplace Safety
- Control of Infectious Diseases
- Declines in Deaths from Heart Disease and Stroke
- Safer and Healthier Foods
- Healthier Mothers and Babies
- Family Planning*
- Fluoridation of Drinking Water*
- Tobacco as a Health Hazard
While most of us take these advances for granted, there a few of the achievements on the list that create controversy and I would feel remiss if I did not make note of that (the * above denote these controversial public health practices). However, I do not want to spend time refuting the arguments people make against these public health achievements. Rather, I would like to use this blog post to acknowledge the fact that we've largely moved from the focus of the 20th century on infectious diseases and injury prevention to a 21st century focus on chronic diseases and the environments, systems and policies that must be changed to create a healthier world. There is so much more to be done in public health. It's time to move forward.
So What IS Public Health . . . ?
- How do you get to work?
- How do your kids get to school and are they safe and happy there?
- Where do you purchase your groceries?
- Where do your kids play outside?
So Where Do We Go From Here?The new face of public health focuses on these upstream social determinants of health. Where you live, work, learn and play are the biggest factors in your health and well being. An example of such public health work in action is an op ed recently posted by my friend and fellow Fellow, Carly Hood, on How to improve the health of Wisconsin families.
|County Health Rankings Model|
University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
County Health Rankings and Roadmaps 2014. www.countyhealthrankings.org
In short, EVERYTHING is public health. As public health professionals today, we work to create healthier environments in which to live, work, learn and play tomorrow.