Public health is one of the core foundations of modern civilization. The United States was not the first country to introduce the concept of public health and identify issues that medicine can help resolve on a global scale. However, in the past two hundred years, it received massive attention from the government (Riegelman & Kirkwood, 2019).
The first public health initiative in the U.S. was the “Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen,” which created a fund that aimed to provide necessary medical help to sick seamen (Antwi, 2018). Later, this initiative was expanded into the Marine Hospital Service, and the scope continued to increase due to the effectiveness of these measures, eventually leading to the creation of the Public Health Service (Antwi, 2018).
The progress of this evolution was heavily affected by widespread epidemics in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century (Antwi, 2018). In the middle of the twentieth century, a right to health care was added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Riegelman & Kirkwood, 2019). This essay aims to discuss the topic of public health and its achievements.
Public health has closer relations to social sciences than many other medical disciplines. It is crucial for scientists to understand connections between humans’ behavior and adverse health effects it might cause. The core values of this discipline are the health of the population, the equal access to health-related services, and promotion of health as a moral imperative (“Philosophical basis for public health,” 2020).
To achieve the results, it might be necessary for public health specialists to build complex explanations of the benefits of proposed initiatives and challenge societal norms, which have an adverse impact on health (“Philosophical basis for public health,” 2020). This discipline raises various philosophical questions, such as a delicate balance between the freedom of individuals and benefits for community health.
One of the missions of public health is to deliver the message regarding the importance of proposed measures to governments and society. In order to achieve understanding, these changes must have a substantial factual basis, and correlate with vital factors, such as cultural diversity and shifts in societal norms, and appeal to human rights (“Philosophical basis for public health,” 2020). Philosophy of public health is to analyze scientific data about global health issues, synthesize possible optimizations, and present them to people in a rational and appealing way.
The primary goal of public health is not to cure diseases directly but to discover and improve measures that help prevent illnesses and make the population more conscious about healthy lifestyles. It requires a complex set of actions from both the government and society and regularly involves other disciplines, such as history, psychology, and economics.
The scope of public health is an entire human population on a global scale, which is divided into smaller groups, such as environmental health, community health, and health of vulnerable groups within society (Riegelman & Kirkwood, 2019). Each policy that applies on a smaller scale has a positive impact on global health, as it curbs the spread of disease and promotes healthier behavior.
As has been mentioned in the previous paragraph, public health, unlike medicine, does not focus on the cure of the individual but instead aims to prevent further appearances of illnesses by pinpointing and removing the reasons for their occurrence. Medicine has a personal service ethic, and its paradigm lies predominantly in medical care, while public health does not focus only on medical issues but explores societal, environmental, and behavioral reasons behind diseases (“Public health and medicine,” n.d.).
Social sciences play a significantly smaller part in medical education, while public health often implements knowledge unrelated to healthcare (“Public health and medicine,” n.d.). Due to its scope, this discipline differs significantly from medicine and requires a different set of skills and knowledge.
In the twentieth century, scientists have successfully identified and eradicated numerous health hazards that plagued humanity in the past. The greatest achievements of this discipline had a significant positive impact on society, leading to an increase in the average lifespan of an American citizen by 30 years (Goldsteen, 2015). One of the major developments in this field of study focuses on reducing the reasons behind the higher number of deaths related to cardiovascular diseases and cancer (Goldsteen, 2015).
Through efforts of public health scientists, the primary causes of this issue have been identified, which include high cholesterol levels and blood pressure from unhealthy diets, excessive sugar consumption, and the lack of physical activity, and tobacco use (Frieden, 2010). The number of policies has been successfully implemented, including anti-smoking and anti-alcohol laws, and educational programs for Americans, affecting all levels of the health impact pyramid (Frieden, 2010).
Social and contextual changes have shown more significant results than educational ones, as this issue disproportionally affects people with low incomes (Frieden, 2010). This achievement, however, did not completely erase the underlying causes of cardiovascular diseases, the U.S. government continues to struggle with rising obesity levels.
Having recognized this problem, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) puts a significant effort to combat unhealthy behaviors. They include programs that give Americans more access to healthy foods, educate them about the importance of a healthy diet, and control the market through additional taxes on high-sugar products (Riegelman & Kirkwood, 2019).
Riegelman and Kirkwood (2019) state that “Obesity is rapidly approaching tobacco use as the number one cause of death and disability in the United States” (p. 267). It is vital for the United States as a nation to stop this epidemic from spreading.
In conclusion, public health is a discipline that combines and coordinates efforts of numerous other sciences in order to make an entire population more healthy. It is not confined by medical interventions and direct influence and provides complex measures that aim to prevent diseases, instead of improving their treatment. Public health can be achieved by improving social determinants of health, educating people, changing public opinions regarding problematic behaviors, and implementing policies on the governmental level.
Antwi, L. K. (2018). A brief history of the Public Health Service. Indiana University Bloomington. Web.
Frieden T. R. (2010). A framework for public health action: the health impact pyramid. American journal of public health, 100(4), 590–595. Web.
Goldsteen, R. (2015). National public health week: 10 great achievements of public health. Springer Publishing. Web.
Philosophical basis for public health. (2020). Encyclopedia. Web.
Public health and medicine. (n.d.). Harvard School of Public Health. Web.
Riegelman, R. K., & Kirkwood, B. (2019). Public health 101: Improving community health (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.