The 21st century has seen tremendous advancements in the fields of science and technology. The advantages people enjoy today due to these developments are immense. However, all good things come with a cost. The progress attained by man has led to many environmental and social issues which make the public more susceptible to illness and disease. In these circumstances, one field which has gained much prominence in the past few decades is that of public health.
What is Public Health?
Public health work aims to provide equal access to healthcare and protection from diseases. Public health can simply be defined as any organized activity aimed towards the prevention of illness and promotion of the collective health of people in a locality/country/etc. Public health services are generally targeted toward a specific population sector based on locality, race, gender, etc. These services include campaigns for health communication, monitoring of disease rates, investigation and diagnosis, community mobilization, and development and implementation of public health policies and laws.
Public Health Practitioners
Public health practitioners work around the clock to protect communities from illness and disease. These include several healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, public health educators, etc. After completing their first healthcare degree, most professionals can opt for a Master of Public Health (MPH). For working professionals interested in pursuing public health, there is also the option of online MPH programs, which allow the freedom to study while working full-time. If you’re considering opting for a career in public health, read on to find the essential roles public health practitioners play in our society.
Importance of Public Health Practitioners
Public health practitioners have a pivotal role in society today. They are responsible for many valuable functions, the most important being protecting and promoting communal health. It is imperative to emphasize that underprivileged/minority groups do not have access to quality healthcare. Hence, they rely primarily on governmental or non-profit initiatives for healthcare. Public health practitioners fill in this gap by developing programs and initiatives to help such people. This entails ensuring that a society or community as a whole remains healthy. Here are some essential duties that public health practitioners fulfill in our society.
- Prevention of Outbreaks
A primary role that public health practitioners are responsible for is the prevention of outbreaks and the spreading of diseases. Public health professionals’ first and foremost duty is to monitor communities and identify potential outbreaks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. By identifying threats early on, public health practitioners make way for solutions that help protect the public and avoid exposure to diseases before things get out of hand.
- Raising Awareness
Another important duty of public health professionals is to spread awareness regarding illnesses and their prevention. As the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ By teaching people how to protect themselves and take care of their health, public health practitioners ensure that the general public can take care of their health in times of need. Thereby the make the community a better place.
- Research & Development
Research is a critical element of public health services. Each community and each group of individuals experiences its own threats concerning healthcare. Therefore, it is not possible to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Public health practitioners can analyze the system’s gaps and assess a population’s vulnerability by monitoring community health and collecting data. In doing so, they can equip themselves with the knowledge necessary for developing effective programs and policies to further their goal of providing quality healthcare for all.
- Healthcare Facilitation
Public healthcare practitioners also spend much time on healthcare facilitation for marginalized/disadvantaged communities/persons. To do so, they work towards assisting those groups which are underprivileged or at risk by implementing healthcare facilitation programs. These include healthcare awareness, provision of medication, and access to healthcare services. In this way, public health professionals ensure that vulnerable groups have access to healthcare.
- Community Wellness
In addition to acting in times of need, public health professionals also focus on the general wellness of the community. This may be done by conducting events such as vaccination drives in times of a pandemic/epidemic. It may also be distributing essential items such as sanitary pads and Plan B pills to women in need. They also conduct surveys and studies on the public to understand the wellness programs required in a specific community. Through such measures, public health professionals aim to prevent medical emergencies in the long run.
- Support Traditional Medical Facilities
With the unending pressures on hospitals, doctors, and traditional medical facilities, there is always room for help. Public health professionals use their knowledge, skills, and resources to support hospitals, doctors, and other facilitators of traditional medicine. Public health practitioners can use their research and studies to give insightful, cost-effective solutions for reducing pressure on medical facilities. This support function fulfilled by public health practitioners is invaluable for promoting healthcare accessibility.
- Further Healthcare Policies and Laws
There are various types of public health practitioners, which also include educators, academics, and activists. These public health professionals focus more on developing effective healthcare policies and lobbying to introduce laws about public health that benefit society as a whole. Of course, to some extent, there is a legal framework already in place in every state/country about public health. However, more often than not, the existing rules/regulations/laws leave much to be desired in terms of effectiveness. Therefore, public health practitioners must also identify the framework’s flaws and take necessary action to make amendments.
Public health is an essential pillar for the welfare of society. Public health professionals maintain the balance in society by ensuring that those without inherent privilege have equal access to healthcare options and are provided with the necessary awareness regarding their well-being. By doing so, public health practitioners make way for healthier community living based on equitable healthcare distribution. As such, it is safe to say that the role played by public health practitioners in our society is unparalleled.