Exploring the World of Public Health
4/5/19 / Andrew Streight
As we kick off a new quarter of blogging at Corona Insights, I’m especially excited to announce that we will be focusing on public health this quarter. Beyond the personal connection I have to the field through my wife—a current graduate student at the Colorado School of Public Health—we’ve had the opportunity at Corona recently to think broadly about the state of public health, including what the work entails, who works in the field, and where public health is heading in the future. On top of that, this week is National Public Health Week.
The differences in the various definitions of the term “public health” offer insight into some of the key questions facing the future of the world of public health. While, generally, Google’s definition as “the health of the population as a whole, especially as the subject of government regulation and support,” isn’t wrong, it doesn’t capture the level of complexity involved in the impact of public health work and the diversity of the people and communities involved in public health.
Conversely, the CDC Foundation defines public health as the “science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities…achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, research disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases.”
This definition from the American Public Health Association, on the other hand, focuses less on the science of public health and more on the role public health plays, rooted in a wider conception of “health” than disease and injury, “Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play. From conducting scientific research to educating about health, people in the field of public health work to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.”
I’m partial to the last definition, as it speaks to the remarkable number of issues, focus areas, approaches, communities, organizations and individuals involved in the daily work of public health. At the end of the day, those working in public health “aim to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy,” but that statement might be interpreted and applied quite differently by a public health researcher than it might be by a public health advocate, for example.
Keep an eye on the Radiance blog over the next three months for our deep-dive into the dynamic world of public health. We’ll start with an overview of the main issues and players in public health, before turning to community health and emerging issues in the field. Stay tuned!