While in recent years, the modern healthcare system has grown in size and complexity, the need to upscale workforces is eminent. There is an urgent need for medical professionals across various fields, including public health and community health experts.
Public health plays a crucial role in promoting, protecting, and maintaining health and well-being in communities. By analyzing factors that affect the health of a population and identifying potential threats, public health professionals improve people’s way of living. The term public here may comprise a small handful of people, a community, or even an entire city. On the other hand, health is not just limited to an individual’s physical fitness but also accounts for psychological and social well-being.
Both public health and community health professions are inextricably linked, contributing to a healthier and happier society. Community health workers provide advanced care to communities that otherwise may not have proper access to it. Public health workers focus their efforts on enhancing patient outcomes in targeted populations regarding community health. They work on a more local and personalized level to cater to specific demographics.
Several areas of our daily lives have improved significantly due to the work of public health experts. These are the top 8 ways they made an impact on community health.
1. Control of diseases
Infection and disease control is one of the most notable responsibilities of the public health sector. As an interdisciplinary field, public health intercalates expertise from various subjects. By conducting routine surveillance and data collection, these experts investigate outbreaks and develop guidelines and policies to control the spread of diseases. Understanding the roles of biostatistics vs. epidemiology better explains how each professional contributes to eradicating the disease from communities.
2. Family planning
Family planning and contraception are hallmark achievements of public health measures in improving community life. Constant and tireless efforts of health professionals led to several communities achieving desired family size and birthing intervals during the 20th century. With more couples choosing to have fewer children, the child mortality rate declined. Additionally, in societies where child marriages were a norm, community health interventions increased the age at which people could marry. Smaller families mean better health for infants, children, and their mothers. It also prevents the financial burden from falling onto the family’s breadwinner and keeps everyone safe and well-fed.
3. Reducing deaths due to chronic diseases
Chronic diseases are those health conditions that last for more than a year and require constant medical attention. In the United States, they are the leading cause of death and disability. Using the appropriate tools and study protocols, public health professionals measure the prevalence of risk factors for these diseases among a population. Next, they make relevant changes to the environment and introduce clinical interventions to encourage people to make healthier choices. For example, regular exercise can reduce the risk of several chronic diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, and obesity.
4. Fluoridation of drinking water
Several studies conducted in the past have shown how drinking fluoridated water can keep teeth strong and reduces cavities. Ever since community water fluoridation began, the prevalence of dental caries and other oral health concerns has significantly declined. Even in communities where water fluoridation has not yet occurred, oral health is better than a few decades ago. It might be due to food processing and bottling of fluoridated water or widespread use of fluoridated toothpaste. Since dental-care services are costly and require extensive treatment, the water fluoridation intervention is especially beneficial for communities from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
Vaccine-preventable diseases have a significant impact on the proportion of mortality rates globally. As one of the most effective strategies in combatting infectious diseases, vaccines prevent close to 3 million deaths annually. Since they are cost-effective and offer long-term protection against common infections, they are increasingly important in improving the health of a community. Children and adults immunized with certain vaccines like MMR and flu shots are less likely to get sick. Besides keeping the population healthy, vaccinations prevent healthcare facilities from overburdened and overwhelmed.
6. Safer and healthier foods
It is the right of every individual to have access to nutritious, safe, affordable, and healthy food. Various food hazards like biochemical or microbiological infestations, allergies, or chemicals in the food can cause significant harm to human life. Public health professionals designed policies and standards to introduce a food safety management system that checks if an item can be considered edible or not. They also conduct surveillance to investigate and identify foodborne illnesses or outbreaks to prevent people from consuming unsafe food. These experts also advise community members to avoid certain foods rich in fats and salts to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.
7. Road safety
Another emerging public health concern is road traffic accidents and motor vehicle injuries. Mitigating these issues requires a multi-disciplinary approach that can reduce the frequency of accidents and minimize the severity of damages caused. Measures such as decreasing the number of motorized vehicles on roads can significantly reduce casualties. Other strategies—ensuring the wearing of seat belts, preventing overspeeding, and following traffic rules—all play a major role in keeping up road safety. By decreasing the number of accidents on the road, there is a lesser burden on the community’s already limited health resources.
8. Safer workplaces
The health and safety of every individual must be a primary concern in every context. Whether you go to school, own a business, or work at a building—your surroundings must be as per safety policies. Ensuring employees’ health saves lives, increases productivity, and reduces costs in damages. Identifying occupational hazards in the workplace is crucial to developing strategies to mitigate these risks and reduce injuries. With safety measures and protocols in place, the workforce will be more efficient and less prone to encounter accidents. These measures keep the community safer and healthier. They also reduce the chances of racking up substantial medical bills whenever there is an injury at work.
Other medical professionals like doctors and nurses focus on treating those already sick. In contrast, community health and public health experts design preventive measures to prevent people from getting sick in the first place. In recent years, the challenges faced by public health officials have evolved, but their role remains just as significant today. Public health professionals have made dramatic strides in improving community health across several villages, towns, and cities. This profession is crucial in establishing public health programs that enhance the quality of care for all communities—regardless of their background.